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Here's How the Government Might Tax Marijuana

In the latest in a series of high-level legislative attempts at marijuana decriminalization, Senate Democrats recently Introduced the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act. One intriguing aspect of this proposed legislation is that it sets out potential tax rates for the green stuff.

Veteran Fool contributor Eric Volkman gets into the specifics of proposed pot taxation in conversation with healthcare and cannabis bureau chief Corinne Cardina in this video from Motley Fool Live, recorded on July 16.

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Corinne Cardina: Let's move right along into that topic of legalization. Let's start federal and then we'll talk about a couple of states. What is the latest on federal laws in the U.S. related to cannabis?

Eric Volkman: Oh, it's now totally legal, totally.

Cardina: Oh, my gosh.

Volkman: Amazing how that happens. The government just flipped the switch immediately, and we're all good.

Cardina: Wouldn't that be nice?

Volkman: That would be nice. Eventually, that might be coming, but that time is not now.

Leading Democrats, particularly Chuck Schumer, the majority leader in the Senate, have introduced something called the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act. Like other proposals in this realm, it essentially decriminalizes marijuana. It removes it from the schedule of federally controlled substances, it essentially leavs states to decide what they're doing or not doing. It wouldn't make a whole lot of difference to the way things are now.

Technically, marijuana will no longer be illegal at the federal level. That's not a huge difference.

There are other aspects to it. They put a schedule of taxes. Marijuana would be taxed at the federal level. I don't know how far into the weeds we want to get here, but it starts out with a 10% top rate, which would be the federal excise tax, at least for one year after enactment [of the law], then that rises to 15%, then 20%, and 25% starting in the fourth year after the law's enactment.

Sellers with under $20 million in annual sales would get a break. They would pay only half of each of those tax rates until they get up to $20 million, and then presumably they'll pay the full whack.

It's important to note that this is only a draft bill. It's not a completed bill that's going to be introduced.

The legislators said that they'd be taking comments and feedback and criticism on it until around Sept. 1. That's an interesting wrinkle to me because previous attempts have been -- either in this [legislative] realm or in the financial aspect of legalization, like the MORE Act (the banking and finance act) -- those have been fully developed bills, at least before they hit committee and get voted on. But this is only a draft.

I'm not sure why that's being done. Either I can't tease out the politics from it. Maybe it's one of these things where they can go back to voters and say, OK, we've done as much as humanly possible to bring this to life, please, please vote for it.

It could also be a play at kicking it down the road and not having it come up for a vote immediately. Maybe there's hope that the political landscape will improve over the next couple of months. I personally think that's optimistic, but that's the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act in a nutshell. Boy, is that hard to say!

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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