Yahoo News: How Republicans and Democrats in Congress are joining forces to defeat Sessions’ war on weed
By Michael Isikoff
“One of my goals in Congress is to ensure the law treats all enterprises with fairness and equity."...
Rep. Carlos Curbelo is a two-term Republican from a South Florida district that was once the epicenter in the country’s war on drugs. But last month Curbelo, one of a new generation of Cuban-Americans in Congress, did something that, not too many years ago, would have been unthinkable. He co-sponsored a bill that is the top priority for the nation’s booming marijuana industry.
Dubbed the Small Business Tax Equity Act, Curbelo’s bill would let legal pot dealers take advantage of the same tax deductions and credits as any other business, a move that industry experts say would slash the effective tax rates for weed dispensaries in half.
“One of my goals in Congress is to ensure the law treats all enterprises with fairness and equity,” he said in a statement explaining his decision to join a liberal Oregon Democrat, Earl Blumenauer, in co-sponsoring the measure.
It didn’t hurt Curbelo that his move won instant plaudits from influential GOP tax reform guru Grover Norquist — a longtime champion of legalized pot — who decries the “arbitrary and punitive” treatment of legal marijuana dealers in the tax code. Nor is it likely to hurt Curbelo back home: Last November, 71 percent of Florida voters approved a medical marijuana measure on the ballot, making the Sunshine State one of the latest in a long line of states that have either legalized pot altogether or allow it to be sold for medicinal purposes.
“Look — it’s increasingly clear people in our country are accepting of marijuana,” Curbelo said in an interview with Yahoo News. “Millions and millions of voters have decided they want marijuana use to be legal for medical purposes or, in some cases, for recreational purposes. For those of us who are small-“c” conservatives who believe in the Tenth Amendment, we should defer to the people of Florida and other states … we shouldn’t get in the way.”
The efforts of Republicans like Curbelo and Norquist are one reason why Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ hopes of reimposing strict enforcement of federal marijuana laws are likely to meet strong bipartisan resistance — and may ultimately go nowhere. Ever since he took over the Justice Department, the 70-year-old Sessions, an unrepentant drug warrior, has made clear his disdain for pot. “I don’t think America is going to be a better place when people of all ages, and particularly young people, are smoking pot,” he told reporters in February shortly after being sworn in.
The other top-of-the-agenda item is the Curbelo-Blumenauer tax bill — a big-ticket issue for the legal weed industry. As a result of a 1981 court case involving a convicted cocaine trafficker, businesses involved in selling illegal drugs under the Internal Revenue Service code are barred from taking the same standard deductions — for rent, office equipment, depreciation and the like — that any other business does. The pot industry badly wants that changed — and Norquist and Curbelo have a strategy to help them do it: Push the measure as part of a tax overhaul package, arguing that the current rule is a job-killer that amounts to a “35 percent sales tax” on legal weed. “I do think it’s a candidate for inclusion,” said Curbelo, who conveniently sits on the Ways and Means Committee and is positioned to make it happen. “This legislation is without question consistent with the goal of Ways and Means Republicans of simplifying the tax code and making it more coherent and more fair.” (A similar bill has been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.)
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