A bipartisan group in Congress are backing a bill that would prevent the federal government from prosecuting individuals and businesses for drug crimes who are in compliance with their states’ marijuana laws.
The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2015 was introduced by Republican Rep. Dana Rohrbacher of California, reports Huffington Post. She introduced the same bill in 2013.
Rohrbacher has the support of five Republicans and six Democrats as co-sponsors: Republican Rep. Justin Amash of Missouri; Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter of California; Republican Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky; Republican Rep. Tom McClintock of California; Republican Rep. Don Young of Arkansas; Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon; Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee; Democratic Rep. Dina Titus of Nevada; Democratic Rep. Janice Schakowsky of Illinois; Democratic Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado; and Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin.
“The American people, through the 35 states that have liberalized laws banning either medical marijuana, marijuana in general, or cannabinoid oils, have made it clear that federal enforcers should stay out of their personal lives," Rohrabacher said. "It’s time for restraint of the federal government’s over-aggressive weed warriors.”
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SFGate blog Smell The Truth reports that at least $300 million in federal funds under the Obama administration have been spent prosecuting state-legal medical marijuana activity.
“This bill resolves the issue entirely by letting states determine their own policies,” said Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project. “It’s the strongest federal legislation introduced to date, and it’s the bill most likely to pass in a Republican-controlled Congress. Nearly every GOP presidential contender has said marijuana policy should be a state issue, not a federal one, essentially endorsing this bill."
There are currently 23 states, along with the District of Columbia, who have legalized medical marijuana, with 13 other states having legalized limited cannabis extracts for specific therapeutic use.
Recreational marijuana is legal in 4 states and the District of Columbia.
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Regardless of state legalization of marijuana, the federal government continues to ban marijuana in all forms and classifies it as one of the “most dangerous” drugs, alongside heroin and LSD.
Obama signed a bill in December that prohibits the Department of Justice from using federal funds to interfere in state-legal medical marijuana programs. But the Department of Justice has said it does not believe the bill prohibits them from prosecuting individuals or businesses in violation of federal law.
The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2015 would amend the Controlled Substances Act so an exception would be made to the federal law for states that have introduced their own marijuana policies.
“State adoption of marijuana laws and accompanying regulations has created a legal patchwork of conflicting state, local, and federal statutes,” Rep. Titus said. “As more states join Nevada in adopting medical marijuana laws and accompanying regulations, it is essential that Congress address the issue to preserve states’ rights and ensure patients and businesses are protected from federal prosecution.”
A recent Third Way poll found 50 percent of Americans support the legalization of marijuana for recreational use, with 47 percent opposed. For medical purposes, marijuana legalization was supported by 78 percent, with only 18 percent opposed.
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