U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Boulder (Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images file)

U.S. Rep. Polis introduces Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act

For the second time in two years, Colorado Rep. Jared Polis introduced legislation Friday that would effectively legalize and tax marijuana at the federal level.

Along with Democrat Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, Polis introduced two bills, the first of which would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and shift regulation from the Drug Enforcement Agency to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The ATF would then regulate marijuana like alcohol.

A second bill would impose a federal excise tax on the sale of marijuana for non-medical purposes and would include an occupational tax for marijuana businesses. The excise tax would be initially set at 10 percent and over time increase to 25 percent.

“Rather than be a medicinal substance, it would be a controlled substance like alcohol and tobacco so there’s still a federal interest in enforcement,” Polis told The Denver Post on Friday. “It’s important as we head into a presidential election. We don’t know if the next president will have the same hands-off approach that Barack Obama and Eric Holder eventually found their way towards.

“And it is gaining more and more support because more and more members of Congress are hearing about these issues from their constituents, for whom the federal law is a problem.”

Polis and Blumenauer introduced similar, unsuccessful bills in 2013 and in 2011 Polis introduced law to allow banks to carry business accounts of medical marijuana distributors and not face federal prosecution. That bill did not get a vote.

“Over the past year, Colorado has demonstrated that regulating marijuana like alcohol takes money away from criminals and cartels, grows our economy, and keeps marijuana out of the hands of children,” Polis said in a statement. “It is time for us to replace the failed prohibition with a regulatory system that works and let states and municipalities decide for themselves if they want, or don’t want, to have legal marijuana within their borders.”

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The proposed Marijuana Tax Revenue Act would establish civil and criminal penalties for people who do not comply and would require the IRS to study the marijuana industry and make recommendations to Congress.

Marijuana’s move away from the DEA, a part of the proposed Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, is an important one, Polis said.

“The culture of the DEA has been highly problematic for marijuana,” Polis said Friday. “It’s an enforcement agency rather than a regulatory agency. Much to the chagrin of policymakers, they’re too often focused on marijuana enforcement instead of more dangerous drugs in their purview. Moving it to a regulatory agency which seeks the balance, rather than an enforcement agency which is entirely focused on stopping it, is important for marijuana legalization.”

Marijuana is classified as an illegal substance under federal law.

Denver Post marijuana editor Ricardo Baca contributed to this report.

Jordan Steffen: 303-954-1794, jsteffen@denverpost.com or twitter.com/jsteffendp

This story was first published on DenverPost.com