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Senator Introduces "420" Bill to Legalize Cannabis Federally

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: Feb 11, 2019   
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Marijuana could soon become legal in every US state, if a new Senate bill is passed. 

The bill, playfully labeled S.420, was introduced to the Senate last week by Ron Wyden, a Democrat and Oregon Senator.

“It’s time to bring our country’s marijuana policies into the 21st century, and my legislation is the way to do it,” he said in an online statement

“It’s time for Congress to respect the will of the voters in Oregon and nationwide, who are demanding common-sense drug policies.”

In practice, the new bill would leave the Drug Enforcement Administration 60 days to remove cannabis from its list of controlled substances, establish a federal tax on all legal sales of the drug, and create federal permits for cannabis businesses.

Cannabis products would also have to adhere to advertising standards similar to those required for alcohol. 

If passed, the bill would become a milestone in US drug history. Because while, for decades, certain states have pursued and approved cannabis legalization, the plant remains illegal at the US federal level – a clause that has criminalized most actions involving the drug, including scientific research.

Three bills outside Washington DC

Along with S.420, Wyden introduced two other pieces of cannabis legislation. 

The bill S.421 would “reduce the gap between federal and state marijuana policy.” A broad, progressive proposal, if passed, the bill would allow banks access to cannabis companies, expunge criminal records, shield immigrants from deportation, and allow the Department of Veterans Affairs to issue medical cannabis to patients. 

The third bill, S.422, is the only piece of legislation that comes with initial cosponsors. Along with Wyden, Senators Rand Paul (R-KY), Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Patty Murray (D-WA) have also endorsed the bill, which seeks to remove state-legal cannabis businesses from the federal provision, a restriction that prevents companies from taking business tax deductions.

Will they pass?

While Wyden’s bills may seem historic, they are far from the first attempts to remove cannabis from federal prohibition. They aren’t even Wyden’s first attempt. 

During the last Congress, the Oregon senator filed three nearly identical bills. None were brought to vote. 

And only last month, Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) proposed another bill monikered 420, that would move regulations to treat cannabis like alcohol.

“While the bill number may be a bit tongue-in-cheek, the issue is very serious,” says Blumenauer in an online statement. 

“Our federal marijuana laws are outdated, out of touch and have negatively impacted countless lives.” 

But advocates are hopeful about the latest trio of bills. Backed by rising support of reform legalization and the economic viability of the cannabis industry, many feel that 2019 is the right time to take this progressive step. 

“Too many lives have been wasted and too many economic opportunities have been missed,” reads Wyden’s online statement. 

“It’s time for Congress to respect the will of the voters in Oregon and nationwide, who are demanding common-sense drug policies.”

Representative Blumenauer’s bill be discussed at a US House Committee hearing on February 13th.

A hearing to discuss Senator Wyden’s bills has yet to be booked.  

Leo Bear-McGuinness

Science Writer & Editor

Leo joined Analytical Cannabis in 2019. From research to regulations and analysis to agriculture, his writing covers all the need-to-know news for the cannabis industry. He holds a Bachelor's in Biology from Newcastle University and a Master's in Science Communication from the University of Edinburgh.


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