Great news if you’re a supporter of recreational marijuana (or terrible news, if it happens to be something you’re against…)
A new federal bill to legalize cannabis and treat it like alcohol has officially been introduced to the Senate as of Friday, February 15th, 2019. We’ll tell you about it and why it has the ability to impact every state right here.
- Called the “Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act, or “S. 420” for short, the new bill seeks to firm up the framework around federal legalization. It gives the government guidance on how to legalize, tax, and regulate the substance at the federal level specifically.
- Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, who officially introduced the bill, clarified its purpose and the need for reform now. “The federal prohibition of marijuana is wrong, plain and simple,” he said. “Too many lives have been wasted, and too many economic opportunities have been missed. It’s time Congress make the changes.”
- S. 420 piggybacks off another more recent bill, House Resolution 420 (H. R. 420). Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced that bill to the House last month in an attempt to push past prohibition faster. Blumenauer called our current marijuana laws “senseless,” labeling the situation “very serious.”
- Blumenauer also called on the House at the time, asking them to speed an end to laws that “negatively impact countless lives.” He made note of the fact that even far-right voters seem to be changing their minds about cannabis, encouraging Congress to follow suit.
- “Oregon has been and continues to be a leader in commonsense marijuana policies and the federal government must catch up,” he explained. “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.”
- However, the newer S. 420 isn’t only focused on cannabis; it diverges from H.R. 420 in many ways. Rather than being targeted at only reform, it is part of a much larger suite of regulatory changes. Wyden and Blumenauer call the entire package the “Path to Marijuana Reform.”
- Why does this matter? Ultimately, it increases the likelihood of S. 420’s approval, but the real answer is what lies inside. S. 420 also contains new Small Business Tax Equity Act and Responsibly Addressing the Marijuana Policy Gap Act changes. If approved, S. 420 will repeal tax codes denying cannabis-oriented businesses the right to certain tax deductions.
- This repeal could eventually open up the U.S. market to smarter options for privatized cannabis sales that don’t put people at risk or feed the black market. It will also give said businesses access to banking, the option to declare bankruptcy, the ability to use marijuana in research, and the option to advertise marijuana in the media.
- These things may seem simple, but they’re really enormous in the scope of business. Up until now outlets like Paypal and most major banks refused to service cannabis providers on the basis that they were operating in a illegal black market (even in legal states). Imagine trying to run a business with no bank account and no access to credit!
- S. 420 also includes legislative changes to overturn certain charges for marijuana possession and trafficking. Proponents believe it will reduce “collateral damage” from the failing War on Drugs, such as personal possession and use. It also significantly opens up access to medical marijuana for U.S. Military veterans.