Issue Spotlight: Marijuana
In November 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize marijuana use. This week, US Attorney General Eric Holder said the US Justice Department is "deferring its right to challenge their legalization laws at this time."
Meanwhile, 18 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws allowing for the medical use of marijuana. California led the way in 1996 when its voters passed Proposition 215, legalizing medical marijuana. This state-level activity is prompting greater interest in federal marijuana legislation. The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing on Sept. 10 to discuss “Conflicts between State and Federal Marijuana Laws.” And nearly a dozen bills have been introduced in the US Congress.
History of Marijuana Laws
Throughout early American history, marijuana use was legal under both federal and individual state laws. In fact, from 1850 to 1941, cannabis was included in the United States Pharmacopoeia as a recognized medicinal. By the end of 1936, however, all 48 states had enacted laws to regulate marijuana.
The federal government's first attempt to regulate marijuana, the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, made possession or transfer of cannabis illegal throughout the US, but for medical and industrial uses. An excise tax was established for these permitted uses. In 1969, the Supreme Court held the Marijuana Tax Act to be unconstitutional. In 1970, with President Nixon's urging, Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act placing marijuana in Schedule I—the most restrictive of five categories for substances with "no currently accepted medical use"—along with heroin, LSD, peyote and psilocybin (mushrooms). Drugs of abuse with recognized medical uses, including opium, cocaine and amphetamine, were assigned to Schedules II through V based on their potential for abuse. (Source: Congressional Research Service.)
Marijuana and Hemp Legislation in CongressAnd nearly a dozen bills have been introduced in the US Congress -- and Congress needs to hear from its constituents. (List updated 8/7/13)
- HR 2735 The PLANT Act: would establish new penalties for causing environmental damage while cultivating marijuana on federal public lands or while trespassing on private property, according to bill sponsor. --Recently Introduced--
- HR 2652 The Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act: To create protections for depository institutions that provide financial services to marijuana-related businesses. --Recently Introduced--
- HR 2240 The Small Business Tax Equity Act: to allow tax deductions and credits relating to expenditures in connection with marijuana sales conducted in compliance with State law.
- HR 1523 The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act: would prevent the federal government from continuing to prosecute residents who are acting in accordance with their state’s marijuana laws, according to the bill sponsor.
- HR 1635 Establishing the National Commission on Federal Marijuana Policy.
- HR 784 The States’ Medical Marijuana Property Rights Protection Act: To amend the Controlled Substances Act so as to exempt real property from civil forfeiture due to medical-marijuana-related conduct that is authorized by State law.
- HR 710 The Truth in Trials Act: would allow individuals accused of violating federal marijuana laws to offer evidence in federal court that their use of medical marijuana followed state medical marijuana laws, according to the bill sponsor.
- HR 689 The States' Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act: To provide for the rescheduling of marijuana and for the medical use of marijuana in accordance with the laws of the various States.
- HR 501 The Marijuana Tax Equity Act: To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide for the taxation of marijuana.
- HR 499 The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act: To decriminalize marijuana at the Federal level, to leave to the States a power to regulate marijuana that is similar to the power they have to regulate alcohol.
- HR 525 The Industrial Hemp Farming Act: To amend the Controlled Substances Act to exclude industrial hemp from the definition of marihuana. (And S 359.)
Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill doesn't imply a POPVOX endorsement in any way. Rather, we're simply trying to offer one more way to stay informed of an overwhelmingly complex legislative system.