Bernie Sanders Files Marijuana Bill In Senate

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders filed a Senate bill Wednesday that would allow states to decide whether to legalize recreational use of marijuana and decriminalize the drug at the federal level. It’s a sign the Democratic presidential candidate is willing to stake out a clear contrast on the issue with front-runner Hillary Clinton.

While some states have legalized pot, it remains illegal on the federal level.

“It’s a state and a federal issue. The federal issue is that we should remove marijuana from the Controlled Substance Act. That’s a federal decision,” Sanders told CNN. “The state decision is that we live in a federal system of government where issues like tobacco and alcohol are significantly regulated by the states. And I think that is a province of the states.”

The Feds, The States And The Controlled Substances Act

COLORADO:   David B. Rivkin and Elizabeth Price Foley have risen to the defense of the attorneys general of Nebraska and Oklahoma, who complain about spillover enforcement costs from Colorado’s law legalizing marijuana and hence are asking the Supreme Court to declare that law unconstitutional.

Along the way they respond to conservative charges of “fair-weather federalism” by pointing to President Obama’s failure to enforce federal drug law in Colorado as the real problem. Yet the gravamen of their legal argument is that, under the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, federal law trumps conflicting state law, so even when the president won’t enforce that law, states “may not pursue policies that undermine federal law,” as policies in Colorado and three other states allegedly now do.

Do they? How exactly is Colorado undermining federal law? Mr. Rivkin and Ms. Foley cite Colorado’s attorney general as saying that “his state is ‘becoming a major exporter of marijuana.’” He was doubtless speaking loosely there. After all, the state isn’t exporting marijuana. In essence, what the state has done is legalize the sale and use of marijuana—as if it had never made it illegal to begin with. Nothing requires a state to make marijuana illegal. Nor is the state doing anything to prohibit federal enforcement of federal prohibitions. It’s doubtful, therefore, that there is any conflict here for the Supreme Court to notice.


The Federal Government Is Taxing Marijuana Businesses To Death

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  Voters in four states and Washington, DC, have approved marijuana legalization. But the drug remains illegal under federal law, creating all sorts of legal hurdles that state-legal marijuana businesses have to overcome.

One of those hurdles is federal taxes. Due to a section of the tax code known as 280E, many state-legal marijuana businesses have to pay taxes on their expenses — unlike other legal businesses, which are allowed to deduct them. For some businesses, this can drive their effective tax rates to 70 to 85 percent of their profits, which is enough to force many shops and growers out of business.

“It’s basically a dagger at the throat of the entire legal cannabis industry,” said Steve DeAngelo, co-founder of California-based medical marijuana dispensary Harborside Health Center.

Section 280E was originally passed in 1982 to prevent drug dealers from deducting expenses related to the trafficking of schedule 1 or 2 substances, including marijuana, from their federal taxes. It was in part inspired by a Minneapolis drug dealer who ran up deductions for expenses related to his dealing, including the cost of gas, trips to other cities, and even rent on his apartment, which he classified as his place of business.


Legislators To Revisit Proposals To Change Texas Marijuana Laws

TEXAS:  Two Texas lawmakers vow to re-introduce marijuana legislation as many times as it takes to move the Lone Star state closer to Colorado and Washington state-style pot regulations.

But experts in drug policy predict anywhere from five to 10 years before lawmakers in Austin might consider being swayed to change Texas marijuana laws.

“I would say within the next decade. Certainly within the next decade,” said Nathan Jones, Ph.D. with Rice University’s Baker Institute. “If you’re looking at the polling data it looks pretty electable. Or it looks almost inevitable.”

Recent polls by the Marijuana Policy Project and other polling organizations show an estimated 58 percent of Texans support legalizing, regulating and taxing small amounts of marijuana. Also, 61 percent support reducing penalties for possession of a small amount.