In-Depth: Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) — whose home district, Oregon, has legalized recreational marijuana — reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress to legalize and tax marijuana:
“The federal prohibition of marijuana is wrong, plain and simple. Too many lives have been wasted, and too many economic opportunities have been missed. It’s time Congress make the changes Oregonians and Americans across the country are demanding.”
Last Congress, Sen. Wyden (D-OR) introduced this bill to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana in conjunction with two other proposals to lessen the gap between federal and state marijuana policies and let marijuana businesses access tax credits and deductions:
“The federal government must respect the decision Oregonians made at the polls and allow law-abiding marijuana. This three-step approach will spur job growth and boost our economy all while ensuring the industry is being held to a fair standard.”
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), the House sponsor of this bill, adds:
"Oregon has been and continues to be a leader in commonsense marijuana policies and the federal government must catch up. The American people have elected the most pro-cannabis Congress in American history and significant pieces of legislation are being introduced. The House is doing its work and with the help of Senator Wyden’s leadership in the Senate, we will break through.”
The National Cannabis Industry Association, the U.S.' largest cannabis industry association, supports this bill, calling it a "boon" for marijuana businesses. Its executive director, Aaron Smith, says:
“This legislation would be a boon for the cannabis industry and for states that have enacted effective laws, but it is vital that the federal tax rates be established in a way that does not incentivize the continuation of the illicit market. It is equally important that small businesses, which would be disproportionately impacted by heavy federal taxes of any sort, be allowed to stay competitive in the industry.”
The anti-marijuana legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana opposes this bill. Its president, Kevin Sabet, argues that this bill would "allow for and encourage the establishment of an industry that regularly produces and markets kid-friendly, high potency pot products.” He adds:
"Th[e marijuana] industry is no longer about the Woodstock hippies, it’s about Wall Street. The legacy of marijuana legalization is not social justice, tax revenues, and reduced prison populations. Instead, legalization is connected to increased drugged driving fatalities, skyrocketing emergency room visits, the marketing of pot to pregnant women, continued arrest disparities and increased heavy and dangerous use.”
This bill has had no Senate cosponsors in either session of Congress (116th and 115th) that it's been introduced in.
Of Note: This bill is one of three that Sen. Wyden and Rep. Blumenauer are introducing together in a legislative package called the Path to Marijuana Reform. In totality, the three bills in this package — the Small Business Tax Equity Act (S. 422), the Responsibly Addressing the Marijuana Policy Gap Act (S. 421), and this bill — pave the way for responsible federal regulation of the legal marijuana industry and provide certainty for state-legal marijuana businesses.
Summary by Eric Revell(Photo Credit: UrosPoteko / iStock)