U.S. Reps. Jared Polis (D-CO) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced separate bills Friday that would regulate marijuana like alcohol and tax it at the federal level, respectively.
Rep. Polis’s bill would replace the federal government’s current marijuana prohibition model with a regulatory model similar to the one in place for alcohol. States would decide their own marijuana laws, and a federal regulatory process would be created for states that choose to regulate the cultivation and sale of marijuana for adult use. Rep. Blumenauer’s bill would tax marijuana at the federal level.
The U.S. House of Representatives approved a revised version of the highly contested Farm Bill yesterday. Although representatives re-crafted the bill to remove provisions for food stamp funding, they left a hemp amendment intact.
The amendment would change federal law to allow for colleges and universities to grow hemp for research purposes in states where hemp cultivation and production is permitted by state law. The bill must still pass the Senate before final approval.
Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado and Agriculture Commissioner James Comer of Kentucky expressed their support for the amendment. Comer said, “Without a doubt, this was an historic day for industrial hemp in America.”
For medical marijuana dispensary owners and the patients who rely on them for access to their medicine, Colorado Congressman Ed Perlmutter’s (D) bill is common sense.
Perlmutter introduced legislation yesterday that would allow legal marijuana-related businesses to have access to traditional banking services. The Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act aims to accomplish this by updating federal banking laws to account for discrepancies with state laws: Currently, financial institutions are barred from working with any organization that sells a controlled substance, regardless of whether the state it resides in permits marijuana sales. Banks that violate this law risk losing their deposit insurance or their federal charter. If the bill is enacted, medical marijuana dispensaries – and the businesses getting ready to open for recreational marijuana sales in Colorado and Washington – will finally have access to bank accounts, credit cards, and loans.
Under the current system, medical marijuana dispensaries are forced to operate on a cash-only basis. For many businesses, this means storing hundreds of thousands of dollars in personal safes, carrying sacks full of hundreds to the state Department of Revenue in order to pay taxes, and looking for unusual sources of start-up revenue. For some businesses, the added burdens have forced them to close shop.
Jamie Lewis, a board member of the National Cannabis Industry Association and owner of two Denver-based medical marijuana companies, said, “Each year, my companies contribute to the five million dollars in tax revenue Colorado collects from the sales of medical marijuana. Making those tax payments is unnecessarily challenging because we do not have access to banking services other local businesses take for granted. Regulators, business owners, and medical marijuana patients alike all deserve the accountability, safety, and efficiency offered by this legislation.”
The bill has been backed by a bipartisan group of 16 Republicans and Democrats, including co-sponsors Jared Polis of Colorado and Denny Heck of Washington.
Breaking news out of Congress! Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) is leading a new bipartisan bill that would modify the federal Controlled Substances Act, so that anyone acting in compliance with a state marijuana law would be immune from federal prosecution.
The Respect for State Marijuana Laws Act would protect marijuana users, dispensary operators, and other individuals who have been courageous enough to help take production and sales above ground into state-regulated markets.
Three Republicans and three Democrats have currently co-signed the bipartisan bill: Reps. Rohrabacher, Justin Amash (R-MI), Don Young (R-AK), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Jared Polis (D-CO).
In 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Department of Justice would no longer spend scarce resources going after medical marijuana patients or providers. The “Ogden memo” clearly established that federal enforcement actions would not be taken against individuals or groups that act in clear and unambiguous compliance with state laws regarding medical marijuana. For the most part, the DOJ has followed this policy.
Now, after a series of letters to various state officials from U.S. Attorneys throughout the country that has led to confusion about what the Department of Justice will allow in terms of medical marijuana providers and cultivators, Holder will supposedly clarify where the federal government stands on state marijuana laws. This has many reformers worried that the Department of Justice will remove any protections that marijuana providers have had up to this point. This would force many patients back into the criminal market, as well as destroy the well-regulated medical marijuana industry in places like Colorado, Maine, and New Mexico, and prevent other states from enacting sensible dispensary regulation.
MPP has been working with Representatives Barney Frank and Jared Polis to put pressure on the DOJ to reaffirm the “Ogden memo” and let states regulate their medical marijuana programs as they see fit, free from federal interference. Yesterday, they sent this letter to Holder asking the same thing.