Congressman Pete Stark (D-CA), Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) and Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) introduced legislation to the House on Wednesday aimed at ensuring the medical marijuana industry is treated like any other business.
The legislation was supported by Republican Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (CA) and Ron Paul (TX).
The Small Business Tax Equity Act, introduced by Stark, authorizes medical marijuana dispensaries to take the full range of business expense deductions on their federal tax returns, like other legal businesses are allowed to.
“Our tax code undercuts legal medical marijuana dispensaries by preventing them from taking all the deductions allowed for other small businesses,” Stark stated. “While unfair to these small business owners, the tax code also punishes the patients who rely on them for safe and reliable access to medical marijuana prescribed by a doctor.”
Fifteen states and the District of Colombia have passed laws permitting marijuana to be used as medicine.
Another bill, introduced by Frank, would make individuals and business immune to federal prosecution if they are acting in compliance with local marijuana laws. Additionally, the legislation would direct the White House to reschedule marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act so that it is no longer considered a highly addictive substance with no medical value.
Marijuana is currently listed as a schedule I drug, the most restrictive schedule with the greatest criminal penalties.
“The time has come for the federal government to stop preempting states’ medical marijuana laws,” Frank said. “For the federal government to come in and supersede state law is a real mistake for those in pain for whom nothing else seems to work. This bill would block the federal prosecution of those patients who reside in those states that allow medical marijuana.”
Lastly, legislation introduced by Polis would ensure that medical marijuana businesses that are state-certified have full access to banking services.
“When a small business, such as a medical marijuana dispensary, can’t access basic banking services they either have to become cash-only—and become targets of crime—or they’ll end up out-of-business,” Polis said. “In states that have legalized medical marijuana, and for businesses that have been state-approved, it is simply wrong for the federal government to intrude and threaten banks that are involved in legal transactions.
American Express is no longer allowing transactions to be processed at medical marijuana dispensaries nationwide. A spokesperson said the company made the decision to not allow its credit cards to be accepted for medical marijuana because it is their “policy to adhere to the federal law in such matters.”
“It is quite obvious the federal war on drugs is a disaster,” Paul added. “Respect for states’ rights means that different policies can be tried in different states and we can see which are the most successful. This legislation is a step in the right direction as it removes a major federal road block impeding businesses that states have determined should be allowed within their borders.”
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