Here’s one of my messages to sponsors of federal marijuana legalization bill:
Dear Senators and Staffers,
On the joint Congressional Committee that devoted four full days of public hearings to liquor taxes alone in December 1933 were a future Supreme Court Justice (Vinson), a future Speaker of the House (McCormack), and a future Vice President (Barkley). That kind of work might well help Congress today. The 1933 hearings were hardly a political graveyard for those who took time to listen and study tricky issues.
Those four days covered only taxes, and only liquor – not beer, not wine. Marijuana legalization needs more work than liquor taxes did in 1933. Unlike with cannabis, we had already had lots of experience taxing liquor. But Congress studied liquor taxation thoroughly anyway.
Hearings in the Senate Finance Committee on taxes would help, I’d say, as a tax scholar and a former staffer there. The tax structure in the draft is going to receive severe criticism, only some of it from me, and things have changed dramatically from the Wyden-Blumenauer bill of 2017, whose tax provisions the CAOA basically copies. Canada has started taxing THC in concentrates, for instance, and New York and Connecticut are going to try to tax it in flower. These are new developments since 2017 – and warrant a new tax structure. But what structure? No one knows.
There is lot of work for Senators and your staffs to do – and plenty of time to do it in, I suspect, as marijuana legalization will not happen overnight.
In 1933, the Committee heard input from staff, the executive branch, academics, and interested private parties (once known as special interests, now known as stakeholders). The Ways & Means and Finance Committees reported out a bill in short order, and President Roosevelt signed it in January. A success story — the result of listening and working.
Here’s the source material, attached. [Newrevenue readers — ask by email for a google drive copy of the large file if you want.]
Tax on Intoxicating Liquor, Joint Hearings Before the Committee on Ways and Means, House of Representatives and the Committee on Finance, United States Senate, 73d Congress, Interim, 1st and 2d Sessions, Dec. 11-14, 1933, at 309.