A Federal Weed Legalization Bill Has Been Introduced In Congress — Here's What Could Happen

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On Friday, two Democratic Oregon lawmakers introduced a federal weed legalization bill into the House Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee as a part of the larger group of bills to start the process of turning marijuana into a fully legal business. Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden introduced S. 420, the Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act, to "legalize, tax and regulate marijuana," according to a release.

"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 in a statement on Friday. "It's time Congress make the changes Oregonians and Americans across the country are demanding."

The package — the Path to Marijuana Reform — is made up of three bills: the Small Business Tax Equity Act; the Responsibly Addressing the Marijuana Policy Gap Act; and the Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act.

House Ways and Means Committee Rep. Earl Blumenauer (he introduced the House's counterpart bills) said the pair's home state of Oregon can be an example as the conversation around federal legalization of marijuana begins. "Oregon has been and continues to be a leader in commonsense marijuana policies and the federal government must catch up," said Blumenauer. He continued:

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 Small Business Tax Equity Act will repeal the "tax penalty that singles out marijuana businesses," while the Responsibility Addressing the Marijuana Policy Gap Act will remove "federal criminal penalties and civil asset forfeiture for individuals and businesses complying with state law" as well as allowing marijuana businesses to have access to "banking, bankruptcy protection, marijuana research and advertising" and consumer protections, according to the press release announcing the legislation package. The Responsibility Addressing the Marijuana Policy Gap Act would also allow veterans to use medical marijuana from state shops.

Marijuana legalization and regulation would happen via the Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act. "It would impose an excise tax on marijuana products similar to current federal excise taxes on alcohol and tobacco, escalating annually to a top rate equal to 25 percent of the sales price," according to a release explaining the legislation package. Marijuana sales would be governed by "strict rules" and would still be barred in a state where state law doesn't allow marijuana sales.

Wyden's legalization bill was introduced in the Senate, which is still controlled by Republicans. "It's tough to see how things will shake out, but there is a very serious chance cannabis policy reform will move in the Senate," Morgan Fox of the National Cannabis Industry Association told CBS News.

Despite the potentially shaky path through the Senate, marijuana legalization advocates remained hopeful. Justin Strekal, the political director for the pro-marijuana legalization organization NORML, told The Associated Press in a statement that the legislations package is a sign of "growing public support for ending our failed war on cannabis consumers."