In the wake of this month's vote in Colorado to legalize marijuana, which won with 55% of the vote, a bipartisan group from the state's congressional delegation is stepping up in support of the voters' choice. Last Thursday, three Colorado members of the House (as well as 15 other representatives) sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asking him to respect the state's new marijuana law. The following day, one of the same members of the Colorado delegation filed a bill that would ensure that the federal government does not override the vote in Colorado and in Washington, where a similar measure also passed.
Urging the administration to have a light touch is one thing; legislation requiring it to do so is another, and that's what Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) has introduced. Her bill, the Respect States' and Citizens' Rights Act, filed with bipartisan support, would exempt states that have passed marijuana legalization from the marijuana provisions of the federal Controlled Substances Act.
"Today I am proud to join with colleagues from both sides of the aisle on the 'Respect States' and Citizens' Rights Act' to protect states' rights and immediately resolve any conflict with the federal government. In Colorado we've witnessed the aggressive policies of the federal government in their treatment of legal medicinal marijuana providers. My constituents have spoken, and I don't want the federal government denying money to Colorado or taking other punitive steps that would undermine the will of our citizens," DeGette, of Denver, said in a statement.
"I strongly oppose the legalization of marijuana, but I also have an obligation to respect the will of the voters given the passage of this initiative, and so I feel obligated to support this legislation," said Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO).
The bill has support from outside of Colorado and Washington, too.
"Residents of Colorado and Washington have made it clear that the public is ahead of the federal government in terms of marijuana legalization," said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). "It’s time for Congress to pass legislation -- such as the 'Respect States' and Citizens' Rights Act' -- that allows states to implement their own laws in this area without fear of federal interference."
"All across the country, states are choosing to reform their marijuana laws. As Justice Brandeis observed, states are the 'laboratories of democracy' and they should be given the opportunity to go forward with this social experiment," said Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN). "I'm proud to cosponsor this important bill, which will ensure that the federal government respects the people's judgment."