Bipartisan Bill Introduced To Address Federal Preemption of State Marijuana Laws
Would Clarify That States Can Determine Their Own Cannabis Policies
A bipartisan group of legislators from around the country led by Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colorado) on Tuesday introduced a bill in Congress that would clarify that Colorado and Washington may fully implement the new marijuana laws approved by voters on November 6.
The bill, known as the “Respect States’ and Citizens’ Rights Act,” would add a provision to the federal Controlled Substances Act expressly stating that state marijuana laws shall not be preempted by federal law.
Other sponsors of the legislation include Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO), Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), Rep. Steven Cohen (D-TN), and Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ).
“This is an extremely significant political event,” said Steve Fox, director of state campaigns and government relations at the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “These members of Congress, motivated by the recent votes in Colorado and Washington, are expressing their opinion that federal law should not undermine the wishes of voters in these states.
“We have seen other members of Congress conveying similar sentiments in letters to the administration and in private meetings,” Fox said. “A common theme uniting all of these actions is a recognition of the fact that the people of Colorado and Washington have voted to end marijuana prohibition and replace it with a system in which marijuana sales are regulated and conducted in state-licensed establishments.
“These members of Congress believe it is inappropriate for the federal government to respond by expending resources in an attempt to protect the criminal underground market,” Fox said. “Any elected official who believes that we as a nation should be moving forward must acknowledge that it is time to allow states to regulate marijuana like alcohol, if that is what they believe is in the best interests of their citizens.”
The new laws in Colorado and Washington make it legal for adults over the age of 21 to possess up to an ounce of marijuana for personal use. They also allow the legislatures of both states to create regulations in order to establish a legal market for businesses to cultivate and sell marijuana to adults.
Several prosecutors in both states began dropping simple marijuana possession charges against adults shortly after the laws were passed. So far, the federal government has not stated whether it intends to use any resources to interfere with the implementation of these laws.