House bills would legalize recreational marijuana

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Marijuana would be legalized for recreational purposes and taxed like tobacco and alcohol under new legislation in the House.

The Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act reintroduced Friday by Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) would remove pot from a list of federally banned drugs. 

Meanwhile, the Marijuana Tax Revenue Act, a companion bill from Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), would establish a federal tax structure for recreational pot but not medical marijuana.

“It’s not just the people who use marijuana, but a lot of other people are recognizing that it’s insane to shuffle billions of dollars to Mexican drug cartels when we could just be taxing it,” Blumenauer told The Hill.

Blumenauer’s bill would initially tax recreational marijuana at 10 percent and gradually raise the rate to 25 percent. But it would not tax medical marijuana at the federal level.

The federal government could make $10 billion annually between the marijuana taxes it collects and the money it saves by not locking people up for possession of pot, Blumenauer estimates.

“The federal prohibition of marijuana has been a failure, wasting tax dollars and ruining countless lives,” Blumenauer said.

The marijuana bills, which were both introduced Friday while lawmakers are on recess, failed to gain traction in the last Congress, but Blumenauer believes pot politics is changing and, even Republicans may be warming up to the idea.

“There’s little doubt in my mind that we’ve turned the corner on this,” he said.

Pot advocates say marijuana reform is long overdue. Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, said this legislation would stop “drug warriors” at the Drug Enforcement Administration from going after people who use pot in states where it is legal.

“It’s time for our federal representatives to come to grips with the fact that marijuana is safer than alcohol and most people think it should be treated that way,” added Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project.

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