* Bills would regulate marijuana, impose federal tax
* Effort follows legalization in Washington state, Colorado
WASHINGTON, Feb 5 (Reuters) - U.S. states would be free to
decide whether to legalize marijuana without running afoul of
federal law but would require purchasers to pay federal taxes on
its sale under legislation being proposed by two Democratic
The proposed bills in the House of Representatives aim to
offer a new federal policy toward pot, amid a growing movement
to legalize it for personal use, whether recreational or
Representatives Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and Jared Polis of
Colorado, both Democrats, planned to introduce the legislation
One bill would end a federal ban on marijuana and give
states jurisdiction over its use and regulate it in a similar
way to alcohol sales, while the other would levy a federal tax,
the congressmen said in a statement.
The Democrats' bills likely face a hurdle in the House where
Republicans hold a majority and control what legislation moves
forward. A similar, bipartisan effort by other representatives
failed to gain traction in 2011.
Washington state and Colorado voted to legalize the drug in
2012 but now face questions on how to implement their laws while
U.S. authorities still consider pot illegal. Illinois is also
considering acting on the issue.
Eighteen states, including California and Oregon, plus the
nation's capital city already allow sales for medical use to
help certain patients cope with pain and other chronic
conditions, according to the National Conference of State
Legislatures, which tracks state laws.
Last year's votes have buoyed those who support easing
access to the drug, which U.S. health officials say is the most
commonly used illegal drug. Polls show most
Americans support legalizing pot.
Critics say that despite widespread use and acceptance, the
drug carries health risks, especially for youth. They question
whether the drug, derived from the cannabis plant and usually
smoked, has benefits for medical use.
Advocates on both sides of the issue are waiting anxiously
to see how federal authorities will act as Washington state and
Colorado move forward.
The U.S. Justice Department has yet to clarify its stance on
the issue, but President Barack Obama has said it does not make
sense for the federal government to focus on recreational drug
users in such states, given limited government resources and
growing public acceptance.
U.S. drug officials have classified marijuana as an illegal
drug with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse
(Editing by Howard Goller and Philip Barbara)