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Marijuana Legalization and Federal Law

As most people are aware, more and more states have legalized the use of marijuana over the past several years. Some have legalized it for recreational use; others have given the okay to medical marijuana. And still others, while not legalizing it, have decriminalized the use of pot. Currently, recreational and/or medical marijuana is legal in a majority of the states. And a Gallup poll last year reported that over two-thirds of Americans support legalization. So, what’s the problem?

The major obstacle is that marijuana remains illegal under federal law. And while the feds have generally taken a hands-off policy regarding state marijuana laws, federal law still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug. For those who don’t know, Schedule I is reserved for what some consider to be the “worst” drugs. In that regard, when a drug is placed on Schedule I the feds are telling us that (a) it has a significant potential for abuse, and (b) it has no currently accepted value for medical treatment in the United States. The second prong of the Schedule I test seems to fly in the face of the conclusion of most of the states, who have approved medical marijuana. Yet marijuana remains classified, on the federal level, along with drugs such as heroin, LSD, MDMA (Ecstasy), Quaaludes and “bath salts.”

Is the federal government so behind the times that it is unaware of developments relating to marijuana? Well, perhaps hanging on to the old views on pot might be attributable to the fact that the federal legislature is to a certain degree controlled by Senators and Representatives who have been in the legislature for, some would argue, far too long. In fact, there are over a dozen who have been in there for over 30 years. But we think there is at least one other factor at work here, and it has nothing to do with the dangers (or not) of marijuana use. It appears to be about money.

Marijuana and the Federal Tax Code

In 1982, the U.S. adopted section 280E of the Tax Code. What it does is to disallow normal corporate income tax deductions for businesses that sell a Schedule I or Schedule II drug. The bottom line is that if the feds legalized pot, there would be a $5 billion dollar loss in tax revenue over the next decade. Is this a major contributing factor to the feds continuing to bury their heads in the sands over marijuana policy? We’re not really sure, but it adds another layer to the issue. In the meantime, the feds remain stuck in a mid-20th century view of marijuana.

The Feldman Law Firm PLLC
1 E. Washington Street
Phoenix, AZ 85004
(602) 540-7887


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