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National marijuana debate heats up




Smoky Uncle Sam

The Associated Press reported Monday that two U.S. congressmen, Colorado's Jared Polis and Oregon's Earl Blumenauer, plan to introduce a series of long-shot bills that would regulate marijuana in a similar manner as alcohol, allow for the mass production of hemp, and create a federal excise tax on related sales.

"You folks in Washington and my friends in Colorado really upset the apple cart," Blumenauer said to AP reporter Gene Johnson. "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."

Polis' bill to transfer regulation of the substance from the Drug Enforcement Administration to the potentially rebranded Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Marijuana and Firearms was introduced to the House of Representatives on Tuesday with others, like the tax issue, to follow. A policy paper to be released this week by the two lawmakers ("based on admittedly vague estimates," wrote the AP) says the federal government could raise as much as $20 billion a year from a $50-per-ounce tax.

"We're seeing enormous political momentum to undo the drug war failings of the past 40 years," the news collective quoted Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, as saying. "For the first time, the wind is behind our back."

Another time, then

The Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division has rescheduled its rule-making stakeholder forum from Feb. 19 to March 1, at 9 a.m.

"Due to the amount of time the Amendment 64 Task Force has required of MMED Staff and a large number of Industry Stakeholders, we have decided to reschedule," reads a statement on the division's website. "The MMED will continue to provide draft language for review, but will not adhere to the previously published timeline."

Those interested in attending the comprehensive rule review should note the meeting's location at 455 Sherman St., #390, in Denver.

Keef crumbs

• A statement posted on strident Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell's website sounded a surprising note: "After long discussions with Senator Rand Paul and Commissioner James Comer on the economic benefits of industrialized hemp, I am convinced that allowing its production will be a positive development for Kentucky's farm families and economy."

• A poll of 1,000 American adults conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International found that 72 percent of respondents support the U.S. government not arresting users in states that have legalized marijuana. Fifty-three percent said they agreed with the statement that "marijuana should be treated the same as alcohol."


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