Legislation has been introduced in the House and Senate that would legalize marijuana at the federal level and permit states to tax marijuana-related businesses.
Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon stated their legislation package would "preserve the integrity of state marijuana laws and provide a path for responsible federal legalization or regulation of the marijuana industry," Oregon Live reported.
Wyden and Blumenauer introduced three bills: the Small Business Tax Equity Act, the Responsibly Addressing the Marijuana Policy Gap Act and Marijuana Regulation and Revenue Act.
The first bill would treat legal marijuana businesses like other small businesses, meaning they could be taxed in the same way. The bill aimed at addressing the policy gap would do away with federal criminal penalties for individuals and businesses obeying the law. It would also make it impossible to deport someone from or deny them entry to the U.S. solely on the grounds that they used marijuana in accordance with state law.
"This is commonsense legislation that will eliminate the growing tension between federal and state marijuana laws. Voters and legislatures are rolling back antiquated state marijuana prohibition policies, and it's time for Congress to step up at the federal level," Robert Cappechi, director of federal policies at the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a news release posted on the organization's website.
The third and final bill proposes an excise tax on cannabis products, along the same lines as alcohol and tobacco. It would also regulate marijuana at the federal level, although its use would still be banned in states where legislation to that effect is on the books.
"States are adopting laws designed to improve public safety by replacing the illegal marijuana market with a tightly regulated system of production and sales. The federal government should be working to facilitate that transition, not hinder it. It’s time for Congress to come to grips with the fact that marijuana is safer than alcohol, and most Americans think it should be treated that way," Cappechi added.
Others are less convinced about legalizing the drug.
"I think that when you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing that we should be doing is encouraging people," White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in February, according to Oregon Live.
Spicer suggested the Trump administration may consider enforcing federal marijuana laws in states where the drug is legal.
In 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded more than 33,000 deaths as a result of opioid overdoses. By contrast, the Drug Enforcement Administration states that nobody has died as a result of a marijuana overdose.