Colorado’s Pot Rhetoric Hits Capitol Hill

2 minute read

Marijuana legalization advocates appear to know a good slogan when they see one.

Democratic Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado introduced a bill in Congress Friday that borrows its name from the successful ballot measure in his home state: The Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act.

As the title suggests, the legislation would remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances and put oversight of it under the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives rather than the Drug Enforcement Agency.

Like similar bills introduced by Polis and former Reps. Barney Frank and Ron Paul, it’s not going anywhere in Washington any time soon. While legalization of recreational marijuana may be underway in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia, it remains a non-starter on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers even moved to bar D.C. from going ahead with its plans.

But Polis’ bill title is revealing. Prior efforts to roll back federal marijuana laws went for 10th Amendment language (Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2013) or harkened back to fights over alcohol in the 1920s and ’30s (Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011), while ballot measures outside Colorado went by numbers (Initiative 502, Ballot Measure 2, Measure 91).

But “Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol” is catchy and succinct. It avoids the pitfalls of talking about “legalization” (too vague), “prohibition” (too old-timey) and “recreational marijuana” (too permissive). And it makes its case in four quick words.

Whether it’s on Capitol Hill or in the next statehouse fight, expect to see this phrase more in the future.

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