Sessions' war on marijuana a handout for illegal operators
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One of the founding principles of our government – federalism – is clearly outlined in the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution. This concept assures the federal government cannot overstep its boundaries and supersede the will of the states. The U.S. attorney general’s war on marijuana blatantly ignores this founding principle to respect states' rights and the decisions made by voters across the country.

In nine states and the District of Columbia, the recreational use of marijuana has been legalized, and medical marijuana is legal in 29 additional states, including my home state of Florida.

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The 2013 Cole Memorandum, recently rescinded by Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump ramps up scrutiny of legal immigrants Data confirm that marijuana decriminalization is long overdue The FIRST STEP Act sets up a dangerous future MORE, ensured a hands-off approach from the federal government in states with “strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems” for marijuana. Through his decision to rescind this common-sense policy, Sessions has undermined states’ rights and disrupted their efforts to implement and execute marijuana enforcement policies. The attorney general’s action is a complete contradiction to the federalist model of government he has held so dear in previous roles. Furthermore, this decision only benefits criminal enterprises – gangs, cartels, drug runners – whose illegal operations suffer when legal marijuana businesses are allowed to operate. As long as legitimate businesses are financially and legally stonewalled from the free market, these drug cartels and drug traffickers will fill the void and spread violence, instability and dangerous unregulated substances in communities across the nation.

Legitimate businesses associated with the sale of marijuana and operating in compliance with state laws are being penalized by the administration’s irresponsible disregard for states’ rights, as well as inadequacies in federal laws. Despite the lawfulness of their enterprises, these business owners find themselves financially hamstrung by an antiquated section of the tax code that prohibits them from deducting business expenses from their taxes. Common and basic necessary expenses such as rent, utilities, and payroll are all disallowed under Section 280E of the Internal Revenue – effectively imposing up to a 90 percent federal income tax rate.

To address this significantly disproportionate tax burden, I introduced the “Small Business Tax Equity Act” with Rep. Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerDems introduce bill to eliminate ICE, shift duties elsewhere 'Paws for Celebration' event brings rescue animals to the Capitol The farm bill fails animals in need MORE (D-Ore.). This bill will create an exemption within the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) and provide tax parity to marijuana businesses operating in compliance with state law. By treating these enterprises with equity and allowing them to expand and thrive, I am confident criminal activity and tax evasion will diminish substantially and opportunities for legal actors will arise. While the Small Business Tax Equity Act takes an important step toward fulfilling the will of the American people, it does not surmount the blatant federal overreach of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

We must, as a country, ensure our federal government respects states’ rights and affords all businesses selling legal products the opportunity to contribute to our economy and create jobs. I will continue to fight for those operating within the law and against the criminal enterprises prospering from these irresponsible and ill-advised current policies. 

Curbelo represents Florida’s 26th District.