Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) want to end the prohibition of marijuana in the U.S. and begin to regulate it as we do alcohol and cigarettes. Their new bill would remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, shifting its regulation to the renamed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Marijuana and Firearms.
Eighteen states now have voted for at least partial legalization of marijuana. Polis and Blumenauer’s bill would prevent the federal government from enforcing current federal drug laws to prosecute users of the drug who are abiding by state laws.
President Obama has said that he would not prioritize the enforcement of federal pot laws in Washington or Colorado, where voters recently chose to legalize the drug for personal recreational use. But this policy could change at any time without a change in the law.
The bill would not force other states to legalize marijuana.
“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,” Polis said. “Congress should simply allow states to regulate marijuana as they see fit and stop wasting federal tax dollars on the failed drug war.”
Observers say the bill is still not likely to get serious consideration in the current Congress.
“There is one big reason why Congress is not likely to take this issue up: They don’t want to bother the corporations that they rely on for funding,” writes Open Congress‘ Donny Shaw.
While some industries — like tobacco and agriculture — support marijuana legalization, the pharmaceutical industry, which funds one of the largest lobbying efforts in America, opposes it. Drug companies have moved into medical marijuana cultivation but still seem opposed to legalization.
In December of 2012, a 51 percent majority of Americans polled supported legalization of marijuana, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.
“Americans have increasingly come to the conclusion that the drug war is a failed policy,” Rep. Polis said. “We need to address it as a public health issue rather than a security issue.”
But for now, it seems that voters are more likely than Congress to support legalization.
Continue reading for a fact sheet and the text of the bill.