Thursday, May 26, 2011

New pro-marijuana bills would majorly change federal law

Posted By on Thu, May 26, 2011 at 9:53 AM

Boulder Rep. Jared Polis
  • Boulder Rep. Jared Polis

As Colorado's cannabis industry has bloomed, solidified, and now, in the past year, been codified, attention has slowly risen from a local level, to a state and now federal level.

U.S. Attorney John Walsh recently issued a memo to the Colorado Legislature stating the Department of Justice had not forgotten its primary objective — enforcing federal law — and would continue to do so despite state allowances for medical marijuana. No state-level result was detected from the fed's pushback, and the Legislature handily passed "clean up" House Bill 1043.

As well, the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis sued the Obama administration or, more specifically, the Drug Enforcement Administration, in an attempt to compel the enforcers to answer a nine-year-old petition seeking the reclassification of marijuana.

Now, the push has reached the federal government, where three representatives — Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., and Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo. — have sponsored major bills in the House in support of marijuana.

In short, the three bills would reschedule marijuana to a Schedule III substance — "The drug or other substance has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States" — allow banks to do business with medical marijuana dispensaries, and allow dispensary owners to deduct businesses expenses on their taxes, which is currently illegal.

The Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act, sponsored by Frank:

Marijuana is moved from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act to Schedule III of such Act.

The Small Business Banking Improvement Act of 2011, sponsored by Polis:

To amend title 31, United States Code, to allow States to certify a business as legitimate for purposes of a financial institution’s suspicious activity reporting requirements, facilitate unambiguous compliance of such businesses with State law, and provide regulatory relief for financial institutions.

The Small Business Tax Equity Act of 2011, sponsored by Stark:

To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow a deduction for expenses in connection with the trade or business of selling marijuana intended for patients for medical purposes pursuant to State law.

"All of these bills will have a positive effect on hundreds of thousands of Americans and only a negligible impact to the rest of the country," says Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access, in a news release. "This kind of policy shift is a no-brainer and should garner the bipartisan support of Congress."

In a separate release, Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, echoes Sherer.

“There is clear evidence that statewide systems of medical marijuana regulations can be extremely effective in controlling the distribution of the medicine and serving the needs of patients. The U.S. Attorneys should heed the advice of Rep. Frank implicit in the introduction of this bill," Kampia says. "That is, it is time for the federal government to get out of the way and let states enact and carry out the policies they believe will be best for the patients and citizens of their states. That includes allowing those involved in distributing marijuana to patients within the confines of state law to operate like any other legitimate business.”

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