Colorado Rep. Polis introduces bill to decriminalize marijuana and regulate like alcohol

Colorado Rep. Jared Polis’ has introduced a bill that would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and regulate it like alcohol.

U.S. Rep. Polis, D-Colorado, on Thursday reintroduced the Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act, a bill that would allow for the federally legal existence of state-based marijuana legalization programs without opening the door for interstate commerce.

The bill — similar in format to Polis’ Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act introduced in 2015 — is part of a bicameral legislative package on marijuana reform introduced Thursday by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon. A key modification included  in the bill’s latest iteration is the establishment of standards for advertising marijuana and related products.

Polis, in an interview with The Cannabist, said the bill creates a mechanism for potential federal revenue and maintains “an appropriate regulatory approach.”

“I think we have a working majority of representatives that believe the federal government needs to get out and allow states to move forward,” Polis said.

The bill comes amid a time of surging uncertainty for state-centric marijuana programs. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made public statements opposing the legalization or marijuana.

As of yet, no official enforcement policy has been announced by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Cole Memo, which established marijuana enforcement priorities and guidelines, remains in place.

“This is really becoming a very urgent matter before Congress,” said Polis, who is one of four lawmakers who founded and launched the bipartisan Cannabis Caucus this year.

At the time of the caucus’ launch, Polis said he would reintroduce legislation that would remove marijuana as a controlled substance, decriminalize it and allow for a nationally regulated industry under the oversight of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act includes the following provisions, according to information provided by Polis’ office:

  • Decriminalize marijuana at the federal level by removing marijuana and THC-containing products from the Controlled Substances Act’s schedules.
  • Specify the Controlled Substances Act does not apply to THC-containing products except in cases of interstate commerce.
  • Remove marijuana oversight from the jurisdiction of the Drug Enforcement Administration and put it under the authority of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
  • Regulate marijuana like alcohol by inserting marijuana into the section of the U.S. Code that regulates “intoxicating liquors”
  • Establish a permitting system overseen by the Treasury department that allows Treasury to impose an annual fee on licensed commercial marijuana producers in an amount sufficient to offset the cost of federal oversight
  • Establish standards for advertising and its products

This story is developing and will be updated.

The Cannabist

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