The third marijuana reform bill introduced on Capitol Hill since the start of the 116th Congress last week, Mr. Blumenauer’s proposal, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, would remove the plant from the government’s list of controlled substances and place it instead under the oversight of existing federal agencies.
“Our federal marijuana laws are outdated, out of touch and have negatively impacted countless lives,” Mr. Blumenauer, the founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, said in a press release.
“Congress cannot continue to be out of touch with a movement that a growing majority of Americans support. It’s time to end this senseless prohibition,” Mr. Blumenauer said.
Categorized under the U.S. Controlled Substance Act (CSA) as a Schedule 1 drug, marijuana is federally outlawed and subject to strict regulations that legalization advocates on either side of the aisle have rallied against as states throughout the country continue to pass legislation defying prohibition.
The Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act would decriminalize the plant at the federal level if passed by removing it entirely from the CSA, transfer enforcement authority away from U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and establish a nationally regulated industry under the oversight of the both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
The FDA would be granted the same authorities with respect to marijuana as it currently has respect with alcohol, and the ATF would take over enforcement duties currently handled by the DEA, according to the proposal.
Filed six days into Democrats taking control of the House, Mr. Blumenauer offered the bill, H.R. 420, on the heels of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle pursuing similar marijuana reform measures within hours of the new Congress first convening last Thursday. Rep. Steve Cohen, Tennessee Democrat, and Rep. Don Young, Alaska Republican, re-introduced the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act, and Rep. Morgan Griffith, Virginia Republican, separately introduced a bill to “provide for the legitimate use of medicinal [marijuana] in accordance with the laws of the various States.”
“This will be the most pro-cannabis Congress in history,” Mr. Blumenauer told Newsy in an interview earlier this week. “We’ve had a number of people who’ve stepped up, who’ve taken a stand, campaigned on it. I’ve talked to over five dozen of the new people and they’re very open-minded or, actually very supportive.”
Thirty-three states have legalized marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes, directly conflicting with federal prohibition and creating complications for cannabis industry stakeholders and scientists alike. Federally insured banks are usually reluctant to work with marijuana businesses that operate in states where the plant is permitted given its Schedule 1 status, and government funds are similarly rarely used toward studying its effects.
Similar versions of the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act were proposed previously in Congress by former Rep. Jared Polis, Colorado Democrat, the state’s newly inaugurated governor.