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Congress Is Seriously Considering Regulating Weed Like Alcohol

The aptly number HR 420 would be just a step short of federal legalization.

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Getting cannabis off Schedule 1 of the federal Controlled Substances Act is the biggest goal of the marijuana industry.  A new bill in the U.S. House of Representatives would accomplish that goal by requiring cannabis be regulated like alcohol instead of like heroin (which is another drug on Schedule 1).

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H.R. 420, called the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, would remove marijuana from the Schedule I list of controlled substances and put the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in charge of regulating cannabis instead of the vehemently anti-marijuana Drug Enforcement Agency.

It’s just one step shy of making marijuana legal nationwide. But does it stand a chance of passing? Certainly, with the Democrats now in control of the House, it at least is expected to get a fair hearing.

Tom Angell, a cannabis advocate who runs Marijuana Moment, told Politico: “For the past several Congresses, there have been dozens of pieces of marijuana legislation filed, but this is the first time where advocates can legitimately say that some of these bills can actually pass.”

Related: Your Cannabis Company Can Get a Bank Account but Not Easily

What Is H.R. 420?

Introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from Oregon, the bill number is a reference to 420. That date - April 20 - has become a national holiday of sorts for marijuana advocates (the story behind it is interesting and has nothing to do with a date, but with a time).

Blumenauer told Willamette Week that while the bill number “is tongue in cheek, the issue is very serious.” Oregon was one of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana. Blumenauer is co-founder of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, which he started in 2017 along with Dana Rohrabacher of California, Don Young of Alaska and Jared Polis of Colorado.

The bill would accomplish a long-time goal of Blumenauer in allowing states to set their own laws on marijuana without fear of interference from the federal government. The bill also taxes and regulates marijuana in the same way tobacco and alcohol are regulated.

On his website, Blumenauer says that while states have taken action on marijuana, it’s created a patchwork of laws around the country. He adds, “Congress has the power to unravel this mess.”

Related: Oregon Has So Much Extra Weed, It Wants To Export It To California

Why Is H.R. 420 Important?

The DEA has for many years refused to remove marijuana from Schedule 1, which keeps it on par with heroin and cocaine and creates serious drawbacks for entrepreneurs in the weed business. For example, banks do not provide routine business services to companies involved with marijuana because for fear they will run afoul of federal money laundering law. That’s left many pot businesses operating on a cash-only basis, which leaves owners, employees and even customers more vulnerable to crime.

The illegal status also has limited research on marijuana in the U.S. Regulation by the ATF, however, would lift restrictions on research and remove the fear of a potential federal crackdown on states where pot is legal. In theory, it also would allow the sale of marijuana across state lines -- something important to Oregon, where there is currently a cannabis glut.

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