His office said Monday it doesn’t yet have an estimate of how much the taxes might bring in. But a policy paper Blumenauer and Polis are releasing this week suggests, based on admittedly vague estimates, that a federal tax of $50 per ounce could raise $20 billion a year. They call for directing the money to law enforcement, substance abuse treatment and the national debt.
Last fall’s votes in Colorado and Washington state to legalize recreational marijuana should push Congress to end the 75-year federal pot prohibition, Blumenauer said.
Washington state officials have estimated that its legal marijuana market could bring in about half a billion dollars a year in state taxes.
“You folks in Washington and my friends in Colorado really upset the apple cart,” Blumenauer said. “We’re still arresting two-thirds of a million people for use of a substance that a majority feel should be legal. … It’s past time for us to step in and try to sort this stuff out.”
Advocates who are working with the lawmakers acknowledge it could take years for any changes to get through Congress, but they’re encouraged by recent developments. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell last week came out in support of efforts to legalize hemp in his home state of Kentucky, and U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., is expected to introduce legislation allowing states to set their own policy on marijuana.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., has indicated he plans to hold a hearing on the conflict between state and federal marijuana laws and has urged an end to federal “mandatory minimum” sentences that lead to long prison stints for drug crimes.
“We’re seeing enormous political momentum to undo the drug war failings of the past 40 years,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, who has been working with lawmakers on marijuana-related bills. “For the first time, the wind is behind our back.”