February 5, 2013

Bills seek to change U.S. pot laws

Lawmakers in Congress pursue federal regulation and big taxes on sales of legalized marijuana.

The Associated Press

SEATTLE — An effort is building in Congress to change U.S. marijuana laws, including moves to legalize the industrial production of hemp and establish a hefty federal pot tax.

While passage this year could be a long shot, lawmakers from both parties have been working on bills, the first of which Democratic Reps. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and Jared Polis of Colorado plan to introduce Tuesday, Blumenauer told The Associated Press.

Polis' measure would regulate marijuana the way the federal government handles alcohol: In states that legalize pot, growers would have to obtain a federal permit. Oversight of marijuana would be removed from the Drug Enforcement Administration and given to the renamed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Marijuana and Firearms, and it would remain illegal to bring marijuana from a state where it's legal to one where it isn't.

The bill is based on a legalization effort pushed by former Reps. Barney Frank of Massachusetts and Ron Paul of Texas.

Blumenauer's bill would create a federal marijuana excise tax of 50 percent on the "first sale" of marijuana -- typically, from a grower to a processor or retailer. It also would tax pot producers or importers $1,000 annually and other marijuana businesses $500.

His office said Monday it doesn't yet have an estimate of how much the taxes might bring in. But a policy paper Blumenauer and Polis will release this week suggests, based on vague estimates, that a federal tax of $50 per ounce could raise $20 billion a year. They call for directing the money to law enforcement, substance abuse treatment and the national debt.

 

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