Dems propose bill decriminalizing pot

A handful of House Democrats on Tuesday introduced legislation that would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level and regulate it through a new Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Marijuana and Firearms.

They also proposed a separate bill setting a federal tax on what would be a newly legal marijuana industry, to offset the cost of federal regulation.

"This legislation doesn't force any state to legalize marijuana, but Colorado and the 18 other jurisdictions that have chosen to allow marijuana for medical or recreational use deserve the certainty of knowing that federal agents won’t raid state-legal businesses," said Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) who sponsored H.R. 499, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act.

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"Congress should simply allow states to regulate marijuana as they see fit and stop wasting federal tax dollars on the failed drug war," he said in a press release on his website.

Under Polis's bill, marijuana would be removed from the list of federally controlled substances and be regulated at the federal level. The bill renames the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Marijuana and Firearms. The bill would also require people in the industry to buy federal permits.

Polis introduced his bill with Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and eight other Democrats. Blumenauer proposed a related bill, the Marijuana Tax Equity Act, which would set an "occupational tax" on people dealing with marijuana, like producers and importers, of $1,000 per year.

That bill, H.R. 501, also allows for civil and criminal penalties for avoiding taxation, and it would require the IRS to study the industry after two years and make recommendations on how to improve administration of the tax.

"We are in the process of a dramatic shift in the marijuana policy landscape," Blumenauer said.

"Public attitude, state law, and established practices are all creating irreconcilable difficulties for public officials at every level of government. We want the federal government to be a responsible partner with the rest of the universe of marijuana interests while we address what federal policy should be regarding drug taxation, classification, and legality."