Progressive lawmakers cite failure of prohibition in moves to revise federal drug laws
Amid growing awareness that marijuana prohibition has failed as a national policy, Senator Bernie Sanders has introduced the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, a bill to lift the federal ban on marijuana.
The bill is companion legislation to H.R. 1013, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, a bipartisan bill that Polis introduced in February along with Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), and nine other original cosponsors. Polis has led the same measure in each of the last two sessions of Congress.
“Just as alcohol prohibition failed in the 1920s, it’s clear marijuana prohibition is failing today,” Polis said. “For decades, the federal ban on marijuana has wasted tax dollars, impeded our criminal justice system, lined the pockets of drug cartels, and trampled on states’ ability to set their own public health laws.
“It makes no sense for marijuana to be grouped together with drugs like heroin and LSD, and we must continue working to end this misguided policy. Today’s introduction of the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act in the Senate is a huge step forward in the movement to enact the commonsense drug laws needed to grow our economy and restore fairness to our justice system.
“States like Colorado that have successfully legalized recreational and medical marijuana have proven that thoughtfully regulating marijuana works much better than banning it. The federal government needs to get out of the way.”
The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act would remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act and enable every state to decide whether to regulate or prohibit the sale and use of marijuana within its own borders.
Polis and Blumenauer first introduced this bill in the 113th Congress as H.R. 499 on February 5, 2013. In the 114th Congress, Polis and Blumenauer reintroduced the bill as H.R. 1013 on February 20, 2015, and renamed the bill the “Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act.”
Though Sanders’ bill is companion legislation to H.R. 1013, there are noteworthy differences. In particular, H.R. 1013 includes provisions to insert marijuana into the section of the U.S. Code that regulates “intoxicating liquors” and establish a permitting system for commercial producers overseen by the Treasury Department, which are not present in the Senate version of the bill.
Earlier this year, the House renewed a measure authored by Rohrabacher and Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) and cosponsored by Polis to prohibit the federal government from interfering in the cultivation, sale, or use of medical marijuana. It also passed an amendment sponsored by Polis and Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) to shift $9 million from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA’s) failed Cannabis Reduction and Eradication program to anti-domestic violence and anti-child abuse programs.
And the House passed a Polis-authored amendment to prohibit the DEA from restarting its warrantless bulk data collection program. Finally, the House held a historic vote on an amendment sponsored by Polis and Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) to prohibit the federal government from interfering in state laws pertaining to either medical or recreational marijuana.