Senator Ron Wyden has proposed legislation that would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level and allow states where marijuana use is already legal to operate without fear of a U.S. government crackdown.
With a majority of U.S. states, including Oregon, now allowing recreational or medical use of the plant, Wyden’s legislation, called the Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act, removes marijuana from the controlled substances list and sets a sliding scale of taxation, beginning at 10 percent and increasing to 25 percent over five years.
The Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act is one of three bills included in a legislative package Wyden and others have called the Path to Marijuana Reform. The bill would create a licensing process through the U.S. Department of the Treasury and set up other regulations similar to those governing the sale and distribution of alcohol in states where cannabis is legal.
The specifics of what a nation-wide legal cannabis market would look like will likely depend on individual states, as well as federal agencies vested with power over pot’s cultivation and sale. However, studies estimating tax revenues from already legal states suggests that the bill could be lucrative for national, state and local government entities.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) estimates about half of all drug busts are for marijuana-related offenses and mostly target individuals with small quantities intended for personal use. Marijuana industry supporters say the decriminalization of marijuana could be a major step toward ending unnecessary and aggressive law enforcement activities.
We’ll see how Senator Wyden’s legislation fares during the current session of the U.S. Congress.