Federal bill would allow states to determine marijuana policy
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s Respect State Marijuana Laws Act exempts marijuana consumers and businesses from federal criminal penalties if they are acting in compliance with state marijuana laws
WASHINGTON — Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher of California introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday that would resolve the conflict between state and federal marijuana laws and allow states to determine their own marijuana policies.
The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act exempts individuals and entities from certain provisions of the Controlled Substances Act if they are acting in compliance with state marijuana laws. This is the third time Rohrabacher has introduced the bill. Twenty of his colleagues in the House, including seven Republicans, co-sponsored the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2015, which was introduced in the 114th Congress.
“This is commonsense legislation that is long overdue,” said Robert Capecchi, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project. “It is time to end marijuana prohibition at the federal level and give states the authority to determine their own policies.
“States throughout the country are effectively regulating and controlling marijuana for medical or broader adult use,” Capecchi said. “Federal tax dollars should not be wasted on arresting and prosecuting people who are following their state and local laws.”
Eight states and D.C. have enacted laws making possession and cultivation of limited amounts of marijuana legal for adults 21 years of age and older. Four states — Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington — have established systems for regulating the production and sale of marijuana for adult use. Four additional states that adopted such laws in November — California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada — are in the process of setting up similar systems. Twenty-eight states, D.C., and the U.S. territories of Guam and Puerto Rico have adopted comprehensive medical marijuana laws that allow seriously ill patients to access medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it. Eighteen additional states have adopted limited and/or unworkable medical marijuana laws.
“Nine out of 10 Americans now live in states that have rejected federal marijuana prohibition by adopting some sort of marijuana policy reform,” Capecchi said. “This legislation would ease the tension between state and federal laws to ensure these state-level reforms are successful. It would also help states address the public health and safety priorities shared by state and federal authorities.”
A national Gallup poll released in October shows public support for making marijuana legal in the U.S. has reached a record high of 60%, up from 58% in 2015 and 50% in 2011. The Pew Research Center also released a national poll in October showing support at 57%, up from 53% in 2015. In August 2015, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) approved a resolution urging the federal government to allow states to determine their own marijuana policies.
“The call for federal marijuana policy reform is growing louder and louder,” said Don Murphy, MPP director of conservative outreach. “Congress needs to listen to their constituents and to state lawmakers, most of whom agree marijuana policy is an issue best left to the states. This is a bipartisan solution that ought to find support on both sides of the aisle.”