H.R. 499 would decriminalize
marijuana at the federal level, leaving it up to the states to decide whether
to allow marijuana for medicinal or recreational use.
Specifically, the bill would:
- Remove marijuana from the list of federally controlled substances;
- Transfer the Drug Enforcement Administration’s authority to regulate marijuana to a newly renamed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Marijuana and Firearms, which will be tasked with regulating marijuana as it currently does alcohol; and
- Require marijuana producers and sellers to purchase a permit, as commercial alcohol producers do, of which the proceeds would offset the cost of federal oversight.
States could choose to continue to prohibit marijuana production or use, and it would remain illegal to transport marijuana to a state where it is prohibited.
H.R. 499 is based on a measure proposed in the last Congress by then-Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA). Rep. Frank’s bill marked the first attempt to entirely eliminate the federal criminalization of marijuana.
Previous decriminalization proposals were limited to possession of marijuana for personal use, possession of small amounts, or use for medicinal purposes. In the 1970s, Rep. Ed Koch (D-NY) introduced a spate of marijuana-related bills, following a 1972 report from the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse (NCMDA) that recommended ending the federal marijuana prohibition. In 1973 he filed a bill that would make it legal to possess marijuana for personal use or distribute it for non-profit purposes. Corresponding legislation was filed in the Senate by Sen. Jacob Javits (D-NY). In the subsequent Congress, Rep. Koch proposed a bill to treat possession of marijuana in small amounts for personal use or transfer without profit as a civil offense rather than a crime.
Legislative decriminalization efforts came to a halt in the 1980s, but resumed in 1997, when Rep. Frank introduced a bill to allow medical use of marijuana. He subsequently proposed a bill to eliminate federal crime penalties for possession or non-profit transfer of small amounts of marijuana.
None of the proposals to end or amend the federal marijuana prohibition have ever made it to a vote on the House or Senate floor. Here at GovTrack we give the current bill a two percent chance of getting out of committee and a one percent chance of being enacted (see here for an explanation of our methodology in computing these probabilities).
Below is a list of bills that have been introduced to either end or amend the federal criminalization of marijuana:
1973 (93rd Congress): A bill to amend certain provisions of the Controlled Substances Act relating to marijuana (reintroduced in the same Congress as H.R. 6570, H.R. 11210, H.R. 17550)
1975 (94th Congress): A bill to amend certain provisions of the Controlled Substances Act relating to marijuana (reintroduced in the same Congress as H.R. 4520)
1997 (105th Congress): Medical Use of Marijuana Act
1999 (106th Congress): Medical Use of Marijuana Act
2003 (108th Congress): States’ Rights to Medical Marijuana Act
2005 (109th Congress): States’ Rights to Medical Marijuana Act
2008 (110th Congress): Act to Remove Federal Penalties for the Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults
2009 (111th Congress): Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults Act of 2009
2008 (110th Congress): Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act
2009 (111th Congress): Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act
2011 (112th Congress): States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act
2013 (113th Congress): States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act