Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) speaking at the U.S. Capitol November 12, 2014 in Washington, D.C. Polis has now reintroduced the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act. (Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images)

Colorado Rep. Polis introduces bill to decriminalize marijuana and regulate like alcohol

Colorado Rep. Jared Polis has introduced a bill that would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and regulate it like alcohol.

Polis, D-Colorado, on Thursday reintroduced the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, a bill that would allow for the federally legal existence of state-based marijuana programs without opening the door for interstate commerce.

Related: Newly unveiled “Path to Marijuana Reform” federal legislation would decriminalize, protect, regulate cannabis industry

The bill — similar in format to Polis’ similarly-named act introduced in 2015 — is part of a bicameral legislative package on marijuana reform introduced Thursday by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon. A key modification included  in the bill’s latest iteration is the establishment of standards for advertising marijuana and related products.

Polis, in an interview with The Cannabist, said the bill creates a mechanism for potential federal revenue and maintains “an appropriate regulatory approach.”

“I think we have a working majority of representatives that believe the federal government needs to get out and allow states to move forward,” Polis said.

The bill comes amid a time of surging uncertainty for state-centric marijuana programs. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made public statements opposing the legalization of marijuana.

As of yet, no official enforcement policy has been announced by the U.S. Department of Justice. The 2013 Cole Memo, which established federal prosecution priorities and guidelines, remains in place.

“We have no indications of where they’re going. That only underscores the need for this kind of bill to become law,” said Polis, who is one of four lawmakers who founded and launched the bipartisan Cannabis Caucus this year.

At the time of the caucus’ launch, Polis said he would reintroduce legislation that would remove marijuana as a controlled substance, decriminalize it and allow for a nationally regulated industry under the oversight of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act includes the following provisions, according to information provided by Polis’ office:

  • Decriminalize marijuana at the federal level by removing marijuana and THC-containing products from the Controlled Substances Act’s schedules.
  • Specify the Controlled Substances Act does not apply to THC-containing products except in cases of interstate commerce.
  • Remove marijuana oversight from the jurisdiction of the Drug Enforcement Administration and put it under the authority of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
  • Regulate marijuana like alcohol by inserting marijuana into the section of the U.S. Code that regulates “intoxicating liquors.”
  • Establish a permitting system overseen by the Treasury Department that allows Treasury to impose an annual fee on licensed commercial marijuana producers in an amount sufficient to offset the cost of federal oversight.
  • Establish standards for advertising and its products.

Separate from the bill reintroduction, Polis said he will again back a spending bill amendment that would prevent the DEA from prosecuting individuals who possess, use or sell marijuana in states that have legalized the recreational use of cannabis.

Polis hopes to have the McClintock-Polis Marijuana Amendment included in the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies spending bill, when that is brought forth in the coming months.

In 2015, the amendment failed the House in a vote of 222-206. The Rohrabacher-Farr Medical Marijuana Amendment, which prevents the DEA from using funds to prosecute individuals in states where medical marijuana is legal, had a different fate: It passed 242-189, up from a vote of 219-189 a year earlier.

“We now feel we have the votes on the recreational side as well,” he said.