Congressional Cannabis Caucus

July 1, 2017

 

 

The days of reefer madness are almost over and the negative stigma of marijuana is rapidly becoming an antiquated remnant of the past. Nothing proves that we’re moving in a more Cannabis friendly direction than the formation of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus.
 

That’s right, for the first time in history there is a bi-partisan caucus, or better know as an alliance, dedicated to loosening marijuana restrictions, reducing penalties for individuals and businesses compliant with state laws, researching the effectiveness of medical marijuana, and creating reasonable tax regulations for cannabis industries.
 

The Caucus was originally dreamed up by  Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-California), who has openly discussed his use of medical marijuana for his arthritis pain, and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) who was a key player in legalizing recreational cannabis in his home state of Oregon. But, the caucus wasn’t officially launched until February 2017 with the addition of Jared Polis (D-Colorado), who has been a longtime supporter of the ‘Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act’, and Don Young (R-Alaska), who has been an outspoken advocate for states rights.
 

So far, there seems to be a tremendous amount of support on both sides of the aisle especially regarding the issue of fair taxation and access to banking which has plagued the cannabis industry for years. Cannabis is still considered illegal under federal law; banks aren’t willing to work with them which forces them to operate on a cash-only basis. This has become increasingly problematic for the industry because they’re still required to pay taxes and under current IRS regulation, there is a 10% penalty for quarterly payroll taxes paid in cash. In addition to these penalties, cannabis industries aren’t able to write off business expenses which lead to them paying 3 to 4 times more in taxes.
 

In March 2017, Rohrabacher introduced a measure, with the support of six Democrats and six Republicans, called The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2017 which would shield businesses and individuals operating in compliance with state sanctioned laws from federal prosecution.

 

Shortly after that, they unleashed a three-bill package called the "Path to Marijuana Reform," which aims to reconcile state and federal marijuana laws. The package included:

 

The Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act which would regulate marijuana similar to alcohol, allow permits for marijuana businesses and would establish taxes on marijuana products.
 

The Small Business Tax Equity Act, which is exactly what it sounds like, would allow businesses that are compliant with state law to claim tax deductions and credits.

 

Responsibly Addressing the Marijuana Policy Gap Act, which would eliminate penalties and asset seizures for businesses and individuals that are compliant under state sanctioned laws. It would give businesses access to banking, bankruptcy protection, allow print and broadcasting advertising, restrict drug testing, would protect screening of applicants for federally assisted housing from being rejected due to marijuana. It would also protect tenants from being evicted for participating in state-sanctioned marijuana-related activities and allow veterans access to medical marijuana.

 

At a press conference in April, Blumenauer said "The federal government’s decades-long approach to marijuana is a colossal, cruel joke, and most Americans know it," and in a separate press conference he expressed "Not only have incalculable amounts of taxpayers’ dollars been wasted, but countless lives have been unnecessarily disrupted and even ruined by misguided law enforcement."

 

By all conventional logic; he’s correct. We’ve known for decades that marijuana is harmless. And, while all the measures that the caucus have put forth so far are just in the introduction phase, it is still a huge step in the right direction. Which, brings us tremendous hope that, sometime in the foreseeable future, the prohibition on cannabis might finally be lifted.

 

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