House Members File Bipartisan "Respect States' Marijuana Laws Act" [FEATURE]

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #780)
Politics & Advocacy

A bi-partisan group of US representatives led by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) Friday introduced legislation that would end the enforcement of federal marijuana laws in states that have either legalized it or adopted medical marijuana laws. That would bring 18 medical marijuana states and two legalization states -- Colorado and Washington -- out from under the shadow of the Controlled Substances Act when it comes to marijuana law reform.

[image:1 align:left caption:true]The bill is H.R. 1523, the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act. It was not yet available online as of the original press time, but is now.

"This bipartisan bill represents a common-sense approach that establishes federal government respect for all states' marijuana laws," said Rohrabacher. "It does so by keeping the federal government out of the business of criminalizing marijuana activities in states that don't want it to be criminal."

Joining Rohrabacher as cosponsors of the bill were Reps. Justin Amash (R-MI), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Jared Polis (D-CO), and Don Young (R-AK).

That brings to at least five the number of marijuana reform bills introduced in the 113th Congress, six if you count an industrial hemp bill. Three of those bills deal with medical marijuana, one with the ability of states to tax marijuana commerce, and one would end federal marijuana prohibition.

Reps. Polis, Blumenauer, Rohrabacher, and others also introduced that latter bill, House Bill 499, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, H.R. 499, which would set up a federal regulatory process -- similar to the one for alcohol -- for states that decide to legalize. Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has said he will hold hearings to examine Colorado and Washington’s new marijuana laws and explore potential federal reforms.

Marijuana law reform efforts in the Congress are being propelled not only by the continuing spread of medical marijuana laws and the impressive victories in Colorado and Washington -- each state saw 55% of voters approve legalization -- but also by ever-mounting evidence that public opinion nationwide is swinging in favor of legalization, and against federal interference in states undertaking marijuana law reforms.

A Pew poll released earlier this month had support for marijuana legalization at 52%, the highest ever for a Pew poll and the first time a Pew poll showed majority support for legalization. Five other recent opinion polls have shown support for legalization hovering at the tipping point, with two of them just under 50%, one at 50%, one at 54%, and one at 57%.

That same Pew poll also found considerable skepticism about enforcing the marijuana laws, with 72% agreeing that "government efforts to enforce marijuana laws cost more than they are worth" and 60% saying that the federal government should not try to enforce marijuana laws in states where it is legal.

"The people have spoken and members of Congress are taking action," said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. "This bill takes conservative principles and applies them to marijuana policy; in terms of the national debate it’s potentially a game-changer."

"This bill is a win for federalism and a win for public safety," said Neill Franklin, a former Maryland narcotics detective and now executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. "In a time of bitter partisanship, it is quite telling that both Republicans and Democrats are calling for respect for the reform of marijuana laws. Polls show this is a winning issue for politicians, and change is inevitable. We applaud those legislators who, rather than trying to impede this progress, stand with the vast majority of Americans who believe these laws should be respected."

"Marijuana prohibition is on its last legs because most Americans no longer support it," said Steve Fox, national political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. "This legislation presents a perfect opportunity for members to embrace the notion that states should be able to devise systems for regulating marijuana without their citizens having to worry about breaking federal law. If a state chooses to take marijuana sales away from cartels and the criminal market and put them in the hands of legitimate, tax-paying businesses, it should be able to do so without federal interference."

"We've reached a tipping point," said Jasmine Tyler, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, "and it is time Congress acknowledge what voters, law enforcement, and state officials have been telling us for years: the feds should stop wasting money interfering when the states are more than capable of regulating marijuana effectively."

Even though this and the other federal marijuana reform bills have been introduced with bipartisan support, their future in the Republican-dominated House this session is murky at best. Some key committee chairs, such as Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), head of the House Judiciary Committee, are very hostile to any reform efforts. But the pressure is mounting.

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)

There is a ton of marijuana related bills introduced in Congress, which seems promising... but will any of them ever even get hearings?  What ever happened to Barney Frank / Ron Paul's bill, that got everyone so excited? It didn't even get a vote nor even a hearing.. will these?  There aren't many co-sponsors to these bills... 

It's ultimately going to fall on the states to continue the domino effect.  I've no faith in Congress.  They won't move until more and more states keep legalizing, then once the majority of states out there have legalized, logic would dictate that the majority of representatives in Congress will support it.. then and ONLY then we'll see some change... and most frustrating is that process could take another decade or longer, especially with idiots like SAM and Save our Society out there slowing it down.

Whatever Holder finally ends up saying might make some difference, but his definition of the word "soon" is not amazing... and he's just as likely to say some bad things as he is some good things.

Sat, 04/13/2013 - 12:28am Permalink
mike dar (not verified)

In reply to by Uncle Bob (not verified)

I might be wrong, but I think Barney and Ron's Bill got dumped unto the Homeland Security Department, fundamentally like dropping something into a black hole as that Dept has utterly no responsibility to respond on any matter attached to them.

Thu, 04/18/2013 - 2:04pm Permalink
Anonymouse (not verified)

Time to roll up our sleeves and get involved. We need to turn "Bill 1523" into a household name, plaster the numbers on a everything just to get people talking about it.

I think the phrase "game changer" does not do this bill justice, it's epic. 

Sat, 04/13/2013 - 5:54pm Permalink
Malcolm (not verified)


To see socially-regressive, sanctimonious neanderthals falsely crying God, nationalism, or patriotism while denigrating, bullying, threatening, and even murdering the ill and dying—for choosing to exercise their God-given right to self-medicate with one of Earth's most medically efficacious plants.

To see our prisons filled to budget-busting capacity on the false pretense of protecting people from themselves.

To see the selective targeting and destruction of African-American families and African-American communities.

To see the lives and livelihoods of tens of millions of Americans destroyed or severely disrupted.

To see our Federal government's role in the international drug trade, funding their despicable black-operations throughout the entire globe.

To see the huge market in narcotics gifted to ruthless criminals, foreign terrorists, and corrupt law enforcement. 

To see our society spiral downwards into a dark abyss, while shady corporate entities exponentially enrich themselves.

These are the dimensions of prohibition; which are terrifying and unconscionable; which are morally repugnant. 

Prohibition is about violence. 

Prohibition is about suffering.

Prohibition is a nasty business.

Sat, 04/13/2013 - 6:47pm Permalink
Spell It Right (not verified)

This might seem like a good bill, but I think it is a way to allow the federal government to deny the people what they want. The point is to not give them any choice but to overturn federal law making it okay for states to legalize cultivation, distribution, possession, and use of marijuana so entrepreneurs don't end up serving federal prison sentences. It does not make sense to do this unless it automatically covers all the states, in case they vote to legalize in the future, and if that is the case then why don't they just make it legal, period.
Sat, 04/13/2013 - 11:58pm Permalink
mexweeds (not verified)

The first thing is to eliminate the "JOINT" (alias giant, as in overdose) which is and always was a sneaky device ("Trojan horse"-- Australian Department of Health) to orient children toward $igarette smoking and make future recruits for the Nicotine Addiction Oligarchy.

Replace Hot Burning Overdose Monoxide (HBOM) "smoking:" methods with VAPORIZER, or if you're cheap like me, by learning the art of vaping with a one-hitter.  If you live in Denver or Seattle, consider opening a ONE-HIT HEAD SHOP specializing in utensils with a small screened crater permitting 25-mg single tokes (instead of 500-mg-per-lightup joint).  For ideas involving a socket wrench or barbed hose nipple, check illustrations on the article, "Make Pipes from Everyday Objecfts".

Sun, 04/14/2013 - 5:47pm Permalink
dmkt6256 (not verified)

 I read limits on plants and amounts allowed and think of the class inequality problems in our country. This limits the everyday poor person from possibly tapping into this cash crop and rising above their poverty. Why not think on a bigger level. If USA ends prohibition then why not tap into this and allow people to grow as much of it as they want and be allow to export. Start new towns who grow pot as a industry paying back into the state with taxes. Shops, stores, delivery services, healing centers, biofuel stations, and so much more. "Give the little people a little rope, but not to much for they might cease being poor." 

Pot tourism would become very good for communities that are struggling.

With pot legal there is no reason why we would ever have a national deficit ever again if we (the little people) were allowed to grow and sell to distribution centers. Lets say the weed you sell to a distribution center would have to be screened for mold and pests and such. The amount you would get paid would be based on a potency test.

We could end so much of the problems we are stressing over if we were able to export. So, 5 years down the road maybe we will be allowed to export to the world.

Just think about the bio fuel production we could produce and export to the world if the Nation was on board to mass produce pot and it was easy to sell your pot to bio fuel plants for conversion into fuel. We could make trillions a year if we cornered the market on bio fuel production. We could convert our entire power grid system off the reliance of oil and use bio fuel made from pot. We could convert our automobiles to run on bio fuel made from pot.

If we mass planted pot in deserts and dry areas we could turn that ecosystem into a thriving habitable area again. It would just take a massive effort to replant areas we have lost. More plants means more oxygen, more air filtration, more moisture going up into the air and creates a ecosystem that will thrive and spread if given everything they need. Just imagine if the entire state of Texas was planted with pot in the areas that lost so many trees from the droughts. The weather patterns in that area would be changed, and become more stable. If you do this on a bigger scale and say plant the entire country our weather patterns would affect the entire world and bring some balance back to the weather. If you could plant pot in the arid parts of the African continent over time you could reclaim the desert. We can fix our world by planting pot. 


Just a thought to consider.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 4:16am Permalink
mexweeds (not verified)

In reply to by dmkt6256 (not verified)

Thanks to dmkt for bringing up this reforestation issue.  Here's an outline:

1.  In drought-stricken areas, employ students, interns, ex-offenders, immigrunts, volunteers etc. to clip, pick up, gather, bundle trillions of dead branches, twigs, weedstalks etc. (which George W. Bush in 2007 referred to as "kindling", a dangerous build-up of fuel for air-carbonizing forest fires).

2.  Haul these to gullies, ravines, seasonally dry creekbeds, erosion hillsides etc. and starting with the smallest (pulverized) particles, build up a mound of water-restraining material (appoint George W. Bush the Czar over the program and name it Bushwater).

3.  Leave a central 4-foot-lane atop each of these structures to add pallets and plywood fastened together forming an access roadsystem for forklift trucks to deliver palletloads of construction material into the uplands and deliver carpentry-workable deadwood logs and other harvested resources out to urban centers.

4.  Drop trillions of hempseeds down into the mass, which when they germinate, will grow their famous fast downward rootsystems helping hold everything in place.

5.  Drop in seeds of Cottonwood (Populus, or Shaky Quaky Spadeleaf Watertree) and other fast-growing invasive perennials to feed off the litter left by the dying annual hemp plants and serve as "training trees" for later high-value hardwood plantings.

6.  All over the googlemap, wherever any water-runoff lanes existed, Greenfinger Mounds will "bush forth" with unstoppable vegetation.  Somewhere downstream freshwater springs will yield usable water supplies for further planting and irrigation use. 

7.  By the year 2222 (in honor of Pete Rose and Al Capone) we'll have at least 200-foot forest canopy over 95% of all tropical land surfaces and at least 100-foot forest canopy over 95% of all temperate land surfaces, billions of hinged one-window greenhouses growing food crops in the polar regions, and in order to avoid wasting any firm land on agriculture, 75% of all ocean surface will be covered with floating islands made out of scrap pallets, crates, etc. from urban lumber wastes, on which imported topsoil will be arranged and food crops grown.

Tue, 04/23/2013 - 9:29pm Permalink
Mike Silver (not verified)

This might be a trivial issue, but why do legalization advocates continue to use the "reefer-madness" term "marijuana" instead of "cannabis?"  Messaging is so important.  GOP is the master of messaging/spin ... "Death Tax instead of "Inheritance Tax" for example.  The term "marijuana" still carries some baggage.  Using it seems counter-productive ...

Thu, 04/18/2013 - 4:25pm Permalink
rmantoo (not verified)

I don't think this latest round of bills has any real hope of being passed:  I think it's going to be a long time, still, before any of these gets enough support (support being defined as political clout, not just popular acclaim) to even make it out of subcommittee, let alone onto the floor for a vote that would pass it.

Sat, 04/20/2013 - 6:29am Permalink
endoftimes (not verified)

In reply to by rmantoo (not verified)

This seems to be the trend after decades of watching bills like this introduced with Barney Franks name on it and someone else(Usually Ron Paul)... It is starting to be like the government is mocking us.
Sun, 04/21/2013 - 10:44am Permalink

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