Oregon Congress Member Sparks Ideas For Marijuana Reform

By Tom Bacon

An Oregon congress member has dropped a bill into the House hopper which he hopes will revolutionize federal marijuana laws and reduce tension with state governments - such as Washington - which have eased pot prohibitions.

Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat, has written a bill to tax marijuana in the same way alcohol and tobacco are now taxed. His bill, called the Marijuana Tax Equity Act, would impose a 50 percent excise tax on growers' sale of the weed to processors or retailers. Pot producers would also pay an annual 1-thousand dollar fee, and other marijuana-related businesses would ante up 500 dollars a year.

Blumenauer thinks that such a tax would be a significant source of revenue - as much as 100-billion dollars over the next decade - plus provide a funding mechanism for drug treatment centers. Federal drug enforcement efforts right now are expensive, at least 5-and-a-half billion dollars a year, according to a study by the CATO Institute. The FBI reported about one-and-a-half million drug arrests in the country last year, with roughly half of those for marijuana possession.

Blumenauer said his measure - plus a reform bill introduced by a freshman Colorado House member - are just the beginning of a congressional push to reform what he called "antiquated, ineffective and, in some cases, nonsensical federal laws.

What becomes of his bill in the conservative House is anybody's guess right now, but Blumenauer believes there is growing support for marijuana reform measures in Congress.
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