A bill has been introduced in the United States Senate to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, while also taxing and regulating the drug. And yes, the bill is called “S. 420.”
Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, who is the leading Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, introduced the bill Friday. It’s also known as the Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act, according to the senator’s official statement.
The “420” Act would allow “taxation and regulation of marijuana products,” while also taking marijuana off of the controlled substances schedule. It would also allow licensing of the substance as well as regulation at the federal level.
The bill is part of a larger package called The Path to Marijuana Reform, which has also been introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Earl Blumenauer, also a Democrat from Oregon.
Other bills under consideration would repeal existing tax penalties for legal marijuana businesses and remove penalties for those in the marijuana business who are complying with state law while violating federal law.
“The federal prohibition of marijuana is wrong, plain and simple. Too many lives have been wasted, and too many economic opportunities have been missed,” Sen. Wyden said in a statement. “It’s time Congress make the changes Oregonians and Americans across the country are demanding.”
In recent years, more and more states and municipalities have begun moving away from criminalizing marijuana. Several states have fully legalized or decriminalized recreational marijuana, while others have legalized it for medicinal purposes.
— Rolling Stone (@RollingStone) February 8, 2019
It’s not clear whether the Senate, currently controlled by the Republicans, will plan to move the bill forward, or if the Trump administration would support it. Jeff Sessions, who was staunchly opposed to any reform of drug laws, is no longer attorney general. The nominee to replace Sessions, William Barr, in his confirmation hearing last month, said (per Fortune) that he does not support marijuana legalization, although he also said that if confirmed, he does not plan to bring federal prosecutions in states where marijuana is legal.
The number “420” has long been associated with marijuana. Its origin, per a Huffington Post account, is traced to five high school students in California in 1971 who were planning to search for an abandoned cannabis crop, and would meet at a certain location at 4:20 p.m. Alternative explanations have included “420” being used as a criminal code for marijuana, although that appears to be apocryphal.
April 20 (4/20) has since been designated as a date associated with marijuana use.