What if the United States could shrink the federal deficit and get high at the same time? Two congressmen calling for the legalization of recreational marijuana say it's not such a trippy idea.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) say marijuana legalization is a common sense fiscal policy that could save the government billions of dollars through a combination of tax revenues and savings from not pursuing costly enforcement and incarceration.
“We are trying to rationalize federal drug policy,” Blumenauer tells Top Line. “We're spending too much money on enforcement for something most Americans think should be legal, and we're losing revenue. And we're going to create federal train wreck if we don't fix it.”
They say the federal government is behind the curve of states like Washington and Colorado, where recreational marijuana is regulated and taxed.
"Colorado and Washington voters agree, as do I, that the proper policy with regard to marijuana is to regulate it rather than ban it," says Polis.
Polis makes the case that marijuana should be treated no differently from "other unhealthy substances" like tobacco and alcohol. But that’s not such an easy sell in the halls of Congress, where Blumenauer and Polis face an uphill battle in getting legislation passed.
One of the main arguments against legalizing marijuana is that it can be a gateway drug to more serious illegal drugs, but Blumenauer dismisses that stance as a “red herring."
“I haven't been in any community where people think junior high students can't get marijuana right now,” Blumenauer says. “If we legalize and regulate and we concentrate our energies on a policy that makes sense, we end the hypocrisy and we focus on making sure it's not in the hands of kids.”
Blumenauer says that regulation should make it harder for underage individuals to obtain marijuana by transferring sales from illegal drug dealers to regulated businesses.
To hear more about Polis’ and Blumenauer’s efforts in to legalize marijuana, and to hear what Polis says is a shift within the Democratic Party on this issue, check out this episode of Top Line.
ABC's Eric Wray, Betsy Klein, Alexandra Dukakis, Paul Dougherty, and Ed Jennings contributed to this episode.