No matter how many states legalize cannabis, a real, functioning market for the drug will never materialize until the federal government comes to its senses and takes it off the most-dangerous-substance list.
Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden has introduced three pieces of legislation that would allow states that have legalized marijuana to treat the industry like any other, without fear of federal interference. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore. has introduced House versions of the bills.
Despite the growing acceptance of marijuana as a relatively benign intoxicant with significant medical applications, federal law continues to classify it as a Schedule I drug, on a par with heroin and LSD. Federal law prohibits marijuana businesses from using federally chartered banks, bars advertising, forbids Veterans Affairs doctors from recommending medical marijuana to their patients and disallows business tax deductions available to other industries.
The bills introduced last week would fix those issues, and regulate marijuana like alcohol at the federal level.
Wyden has introduced similar legislation before, but it never reached a vote. This time, Blumenauer, another proponent of legalization, says the chances are better. “The American people have elected the most pro-cannabis Congress in American history and significant pieces of legislation are being introduced,” he said in a news release.
Southern Oregon has more reason than most areas to follow this legislation closely, because our climate is especially suited to marijuana cultivation. But the state’s efforts to promote a functioning market have been hampered by oversupply and the continued lure of big profits to be made by exporting the drug to states where it is still illegal and selling it on the black market.
Federal authorities are keeping a close eye on such diversions. If it were possible to legally ship marijuana across state lines like any other commodity, Oregon could potentially supply other states where it is legal but more difficult to grow.
Eventually, marijuana will be legalized nationwide, and Congress will have little choice but to bring federal law into line with what states are already doing. Until then, state-level markets will continue to struggle against barriers that other businesses do not have to face.