Consolidating California and State Marijuana Legal guidelines – Press Enterprise

Although adults can legally buy and use marijuana, the legal market has struggled to compete with the black market in California, where the state and local tax burden on legal marijuana products is 40%. As a result, over half of the California cannabis market continues to be supplied by unlicensed dealers.

As California tries to improve its marijuana laws, it would also benefit if outdated and counterproductive federal laws banning marijuana were finally repealed.

Eighteen states have now legalized adult use of marijuana and 36 states have laws allowing the use of medical marijuana. Polls show that nearly seven in ten Americans are in favor of legalizing adult marijuana use and 90% advocate medical use. Still, federal law still bans marijuana and treats it as an illegal Schedule 1 substance like heroin and more strictly than cocaine or methamphetamines.

As a result, it is still illegal for Americans in California to own, grow, distribute, or transport marijuana, even for medicinal purposes. Two major federal marijuana legalization laws were recently tabled – the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act in the House of Representatives, and a new Senate bill, Chuck Schumer, New York. Both bills get to the heart of the problem by removing marijuana from the controlled substances list.

The postponement is the cornerstone of marijuana reform, as it allows marijuana to be treated like other legal substances such as alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine.

While it lifts federal penalties for using marijuana, it still allows states to regulate, ban, or legalize it at will, like alcohol.

The benefit of postponing the date is to ensure that state marijuana is also legal under federal law.

It also removes outdated federal restrictions on banking, medical access, research, immigration, housing, employment, and gun rights.

A weaker alternative known as rescheduling would regulate marijuana as a prescription substance like opiates, but ignore existing state laws for both medical and adult use.

Limited federal oversight of interstate trade, including internet sales and advertising, foreign imports and exports to states that prohibit marijuana, would facilitate an orderly legal marijuana market. Federal agencies are not required to over-regulate and tax the entire marijuana industry, as is currently envisaged in Sen. Schumer's bill that imposes federal regulations on product testing, labeling, packaging, record keeping, cultivation, manufacturing, inventory tracking and regulating The Food and Drug Administration Cannabis products.

States, including California, already do, and such regulation falls within their constitutionally reserved powers. The federal role in cannabis regulation should rightly be limited to products in international or international trade.

Some state tax systems, such as California's, make the price of black market products more attractive to consumers and producers, and the superposition of high federal taxes will exacerbate this trend. It can well be argued that the total tax burden on legal cannabis should not exceed the 15% currently levied on alcoholic spirits. Any federal excise tax should only fund the cost of facilitating inventory transfers between state regulatory frameworks that should continue to govern standards for cannabis products.

Finally, it's important that federal marijuana reform addresses the harm done by the ban. Both the current House and Senate bills include wise restorative justice provisions to obliterate or convict individuals for offenses that would be decriminalized by federal legalization. The proposals also include provisions on equal treatment to ensure that past marijuana offenders are not excluded from working in the legal market in order to increase competition and remove barriers to entry for small business owners.

It's time to postpone marijuana. And while there are many avenues to cannabis reform, the smartest way is to free states from obsolete federal laws and stop burdening them with new federal taxes and regulations.

Dale Gieringer is Director of the California Chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). Geoffrey Lawrence is the director of drug policy at the Reason Foundation and a founding member of the Libertarian Cannabis Freedom Alliance.