- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Advocates have long sought the authority to sell and tax marijuana, and they are hoping the 116th Congress makes their dream come true.

In the House, 224 members reportedly want states to decide their own marijuana laws and policies, which would allow pot to be sold, regulated and taxed.

There was a time when the production, transportation and sale of booze was illegal. So bone up on pre- and post-Prohibition history to get tastier and costlier snapshots of where marijuana supporters are headed. State and federal lawmakers want their potential tax revenues, just as the federal “revenuers” did from homemade distilleries and washtubs filled with gin.

There’s only a few things that stand in the way of D.C. and the states getting full rights to marijuana money. First, it remains a federally controlled substance, which means federal law would have to be universally changed. Then there’s the federal government forbidding the D.C. government from spending one red cent on taxing pot. After whipping up the nays in the Democrat-controlled House, there’s no telling where a Republican-led Senate vote would be headed.

Where, oh where, is former Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions? Oh, that’s right. He stepped away from the Senate to become President Trump’s attorney general. Oh, snap.

Where, indeed, are the flamethrowers? Haven’t they noticed that during Prohibition “medicinal” sales were allowed even when shops and bars were prohibited from selling sundry alcoholic beverages? Sounds familiar, does it not?

The marijuana timeline: Let ‘em smoke. Lock ‘em up. Let’s not lock ‘em all up. Let ‘em get “medicinal” marijuana. Decriminalize marijuana. Say, let’s legalize pot. Aw, hell, let’s regulate and tax marijuana. Let’s beat back the black market.

D.C. Council member David Grosso, who has earned the title of Most Socialist Lawmaker in City Hall, dusted off his cap Tuesday by informing the public that he has introduced a new version of the Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Act.

“Since D.C. voters approved Initiative 71 to decriminalize recreational marijuana we have seen marijuana-related arrests plummet, representing thousands of District residents who were spared needless involvement in the judicial system,” Mr. Grosso said. “The logical next step, to continue to reduce arrests and to bring marijuana totally out of the shadows, is to set up a strong tax and regulatory system.”

That the legislation proposes to allocate a portion of pot taxes to “drug abuse services and prevention efforts” speaks volumes: Substance abusers have a problem, and pot proponents anticipate bigger problems.

The measure also would spend marijuana tax dollars to support “African-American[s], formerly incarcerated, and other residents affected by the criminalization of marijuana to own or work at these businesses.” Also, the city would “automatically expunge criminal records solely involving marijuana.”

There you have it, from misfortune to a fortune in taxes with a few key strokes. Not so fast.

Half-baked political ideas can leave a bad taste in taxpayers’ mouths.

How is a city — a non-state federal district, actually — supposed to soberly draw up regulations and tax codes on illegal drugs when it can’t even provide efficient and cost-effective services? Schooling is questionable. Trash collection is questionable. Public health services are delivered at extremely high costs. Public safety policies sometimes hinder the very people expected to deliver services.

Will pot be regulated by weight? Potency? Production site?

Will it be available online? Will purchasers have to pay an internet sales tax?

Will there be brands? Are Martha Stewart and Snoop interested? Will R. Kelly write a tune and rebrand himself?

Capitol Hill and the White House have the final say, and there are law-and-order types in Congress, at least lawmakers who made a name for themselves in the name of justice, such as Sen. Kamala D. Harris, California’s former attorney general.

Hippie Dippie City Hall has let the smoke get in its eyes. Congress cannot afford to do the same.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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