With a supermajority of Americans supporting marijuana legalization, the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, Ron Wyden (D-OR), has introduced a bill to tax and regulate the substance like alcohol.
In a nod to the mainstreaming of marijuana culture, the legislation carries the stony bill number S. 420. It is the companion to a bill introduced by fellow Oregon Democrat, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, the senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, H.R. 420.
S. 420 — aka the “Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act” — would create a national framework for states to choose their own paths on marijuana. The bill has four major components:
First, the bill would remove marijuana from the DEA’s list of Schedules I drugs, where it is currently grouped with dangerous and addictive substances like heroin.
Second, the bill would impose a federal excise tax on legalized cannabis products, much like the feds now impose on tobacco and alcohol, eventually rising to 25 percent of the sales price.
Third, S. 420 would require marijuana “producers, importers and wholesalers” to register for a permit with the Department of Treasury.
Fourth, the bill would support states that opt to continue pot prohibition, with a federal ban on pot sales and distribution there.
Congress’ 420 bills have emerged from Oregon’s successful legalization of marijuana, but speak to the frustration that pot-legal states continue to face under the federal government’s misguided War on Drugs.
“The federal prohibition of marijuana is wrong, plain and simple,” Wyden said, introducing his bill on Friday. Underscoring the lives ruined and economic opportunities squandered due to decades of criminalization, Wyden insisted: “It’s time Congress make the changes Oregonians and Americans across the country are demanding.”
Praising Wyden’s Senate leadership, Blumenauer insisted the federal government must “catch up” to marijuana-legal states, and that it’s high time for “the most pro-cannabis Congress in American history” to work the will of the people. “We will break through,” he promised.
(For those uninitiated in the numerology of cannabis culture, here is Rolling Stone’s report on the origin story of 420.)