As Attorney General Jeff Sessions and other drug warriors rattle their sabers, glimmers of bipartisan agreement in Congress are starting to show as lawmakers from both sides of the aisle express support for criminal justice reform. They also concur that it’s not a good idea to mess with legal marijuana.
For example, two-term South Florida Republican Carlos Curbelo recently co-sponsored a bill that could have a dramatic effect on the booming weed industry.
Curbelo’s bill, the Small Business Tax Equity Act, would allow cannabis-based companies to take normal business-related tax deductions and credits, like any other business. Industry experts say this would cut the current tax rates for marijuana dispensaries in half and therefore allow them to make larger legal profits.
The bill has bipartisan support from co-sponsors Republican Senator Rand Paul from Kentucky and Oregon Democrat, Earl Blumenauer.
“One of my goals in Congress is to ensure the law treats all enterprises with fairness and equity,” Curbelo said in a press release.
Curbelo’s bill also has the support of influential Republican tax reformer Grover Norquist, founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, an organization that opposes all tax increases.
Norquist also happens to be a longtime supporter of pot legalization and is on the record as opposing “arbitrary and punitive” treatment of legal marijuana sellers in the tax code.
It is also worth noting that that in Curbelo’s home state of Florida, 71 percent of voters approved a medical marijuana measure last November.
“For those of us who are small ‘c’ conservatives who believe in the 10th Amendment [states’ rights], we should defer to the people of Florida and other states… we shouldn’t get in the way,” Curbelo said in an interview with Yahoo News.
Bipartisan efforts being undertaken by Republicans like Curbelo and Norquist are one reason why Jeff Sessions’ plan to resume the failed War on Drugs could run into some serious resistance in Congress.
As the White House continues to shock with its bizarre cabinet choices to fill such positions as drug czar with a person who is known to be in bed with the opioid-producing pharmaceutical companies and an attorney general from another century, some reasonable thinkers in Congress are running to catch up with a train that left the station a while ago: pot legalization.
As Sessions was about to sign his new memo earlier this month outlining the responsibilities of a new Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety, four state governors (from Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington) launched a preemptive strike with their own letter to Sessions urging him to keep weed legal and to uphold states’ rights.
Sessions also faces increasing acceptance of cannabis from Republican states like West Virginia, where its Republican legislature just approved a medical marijuana bill.
“It’s absolutely powerful now. This is a political movement,” said Norquist, who is lobbying to get Curbelo’s proposal into Trump’s “historic” tax reform bill that the White House is hoping Congress will pass by this summer.
“What we’ve seen is a lot of pushback from both sides of the aisle,” said Taylor West, communications director for the National Cannabis Industry Association, per Yahoo News.
“A couple of times now, there have been statements coming out of the administration, from Sessions or Sean Spicer, that seemed ominous for legal marijuana programs,” West added. “But when follow-up is done and questions are asked, there is not a clear statement of policy changes. The clearest thing to come out of these episodes is the opposition to the idea that they might change the policy.”