A federal bill that would legalize cannabis and regulate it like alcohol was introduced in the Senate on Friday by Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon. The bill, the Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act, has been designated as S. 420 by Wyden and is a companion measure to H.R. 420, which was introduced in the House of Representatives by fellow Oregon Democrat Rep. Earl Blumenauer last month.
A Democratic aide to the Senate Finance Committee, where Wyden is the ranking member, said that the bill aims to “responsibly legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana at the federal level,” according to media reports. Wyden said in a press release on Friday that now is the time for cannabis reform at the national level.
“The federal prohibition of marijuana is wrong, plain and simple. Too many lives have been wasted, and too many economic opportunities have been missed,” Wyden said. “It’s time Congress make the changes Oregonians and Americans across the country are demanding.”
Blumenauer agreed, noting that voters’ opinions on cannabis have changed and that their representatives in Congress should follow suit.
“Oregon has been and continues to be a leader in commonsense marijuana policies and the federal government must catch up,” said Blumenauer. “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.”
S. 420 is part of a package of bills intended to reform federal cannabis policy dubbed by Wyden and Blumenauer as the Path to Marijuana Reform. The other measures in the package, the Small Business Tax Equity Act and the Responsibly Addressing the Marijuana Policy Gap Act. The Small Business Tax Equity Act would repeal provisions of the tax code that deny cannabis businesses the right to take the same tax deductions as companies in other industries.
The Responsibly Addressing the Marijuana Policy Gap Act would remove federal criminal penalties and civil asset forfeiture for individuals and businesses complying with state law. The bill would also give cannabis businesses legal under state law access to banking, bankruptcy protection, marijuana research, and advertising. The bill includes an expungement process for some marijuana convictions which will reduce some of the collateral damage of the War on Drugs, including the denial of federal housing and financial aid. The bill also gives veterans access to legal medical marijuana programs and protects Native American tribes from prosecution under federal cannabis laws.
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