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Colorado US Representatives Move to Support Legal Marijuana

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #760)

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.

The Obama administration should "take no action against anyone who acts in compliance with the laws of Colorado, Washington and any other states that choose to regulate access to marijuana," the letter penned by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) said. "The voters of these states chose, by a substantial margin, to forge a new and effective policy with respect to marijuana. The tide of public opinion is changing, both at the ballot box and in state legislatures across the country. We believe that the collective judgment of voters and state lawmakers must be respected."

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."

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Uncle Bob (not verified)

It's about time those who were elected to represent us start ACTUALLY representing us.  Right now, 50% of American support legalization.. and in states that are more liberal, that quite frankly means the majority of people in that particular state.

Tue, 11/20/2012 - 7:50pm Permalink
Carl Olsen (not verified)

Colorado has had a medical marijuana law for over a decade and these federal elected officials representing Colorado have suddenly become aware of it.  Maybe they thought it was going to be repealed.

Wed, 11/21/2012 - 3:40pm Permalink
mexweed (not verified)

The major emotional force behind prohibition politics remains the fear of believed DANGERS attending cannabis use, especially by youngsters; therefore a program should be mixed into this Act: proactive manufacturing and marketing of dosage restriction utensils (one-hitters, portable personal vapes etc.) aimed at substituting a standard 25-mg serving size for the 500-mg or even larger "joint" (alias giant) which inflicts heat shock, carbon monoxide and 421 combustion toxins to produce behavior and character harm attributed in the media to cannabis.

Wed, 11/21/2012 - 9:10pm Permalink
Steve Newcomb (not verified)

What is the Constitutional doctrine under which the federal government has the power to criminalize the possession and production of so-called "controlled substances"?  The answer is this: The Constitution's Commerce clause allows the government to regulate activities that don't cross state lines because the commodities involved *could* be transported across state lines, and therefore the federal government's power to regulate interstate commerce applies.

This bizarre and indefensible interpretation comes from a long-ago Supreme Court case in which a particular individual's growing of wheat, yes wheat, entirely for his own consumption, was deemed to be subject to federal regulation, under the Commerce Clause.

The fact that Congress has agreed with this phony doctrine ever since then can mean only one thing: federal power over business activity is in fact more important to our representatives in Washington than each individual American citizen's freedom to engage even in non-business activity.

If you feel as much indignation about this as you should, you should also look at the thousands of other decisions and regulations that have been made on the basis of that original, outrageous can't-grow-your-own-wheat case.  Then you should face up to the fact that the issues are many, they are not simple, and that our country is now in a bit of a jam on this Commerce Clause matter.  It's not going to be easy to sort it all out.

It is wrong-headed to "ask the Justice Department" to fail to fulfill its mission of upholding the law, even though that may appear the simplest way forward.  Under our Constitution, the Executive Branch, of which the Justice Department is a branch, does not have the option of deciding which laws are really laws, and which aren't.  Only the other two branches can make such decisions.  One of those branches is the Judiciary, and it has already spoken -- in that very same can't-grow-your-own-wheat case.  The only way to get the Judiciary to reconsider its decision is to bring a case and hope the Supreme Court will decide to hear it, and then overturn its previous decision.  We should bring such a case, but it's a very long shot, and it will consume a decade of hard work, perhaps only to be ignored to death.  That leaves only one branch left: the Legislative.  In other words, Congress.  Congress can fix this situation in mere minutes, if it wants to.  All it has to do is to pass a law that passes all regulatory authority over marijuana/hemp to the states.

So Congress is where to concentrate our efforts to change things.  Not the Department of Justice.  Sooner or later, this matter will be won in Congress.  The fact that two states have legalized is a very good reason for Congress to act.

Wed, 11/21/2012 - 10:02pm Permalink
Uncle Bob (not verified)

In reply to by Steve Newcomb (not verified)

Too bad there's usually no candidate to vote for who supports legalization, because the two mainstream parties haven't come around yet.  Combine that with the length of their terms when elected and you can see why states like WA and CO saw the initiative to preempt the system by just taking the matters into their own hands.

Thu, 11/22/2012 - 12:47pm Permalink
Ben Alonso (not verified)

In reply to by Steve Newcomb (not verified)

Altering the commerce clause will b to scary for the Fed.Everything from Obamacare to Social Security to the IRS would b in jeopardy. It will be easier on their mind to simply legalize marijuana, or de-schedule, or at least, re-schedule. In regards to the judiciary branch, there is such a case. Americans for Safe Access vs. The DEA. The CSA is not being attacked on two fronts,.
Sat, 11/24/2012 - 12:15am Permalink
Uncle Bob (not verified)

Tue, 11/27/2012 - 9:17pm Permalink

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