Colorado Republican Congressman Voices Support for Rescheduling Marijuana

While still opposed to marijuana legalization, Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn recently came out in support of rescheduling marijuana to allow medical research.

Colorado Springs Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn has called for the rescheduling of marijuana under federal law so that researchers can more easily study whether it has therapeutic properties.

In a recent interview with CPR News, Lamborn, a high-ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee, reiterated that he is not in favor of marijuana legalization, but does now support medical research.

“If nothing else, I would like to see the ability for researchers to study the medical effects of marijuana to see if the benefits are really there, as some people claim, and you can’t do that right now when it’s a level category one controlled substance,” Lamborn said to CPR News. “So, at least let’s take the step of allowing marijuana to be available to researchers. Now whether we go beyond that, I’m not sure I could support going beyond that.”

Marijuana’s current classification as a Schedule I substance hinders researchers, who must obtain licenses from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and often times their respective state-controlled drug agency. These hurdles cost additional money and time and have prevented investigators from thoroughly collecting data on cannabis effectiveness, dosages, safety, and delivery systems.

Shifting marijuana to a lower schedule would create a clearer path for more research. It would also allow states to have the right to legalize the medical use of marijuana and permit banks to service cannabis businesses that are compliant with state law.

Lamborn’s state of Colorado is one of nine states that have legalized recreational marijuana, and one of 29 to have legalized medical marijuana.

A Shift for Lamborn?

Lamborn’s support of a marijuana policy change is notable, considering he has been clear about his opposition to legalization.

Earlier this year when U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole Memo, a 2013 Obama-era federal policy that directed federal prosecutors to not prioritize interfering with state-legal marijuana, Lamborn was one of the few lawmakers that came out in support of the move.

“The federal government has the right and responsibility to uphold federal laws,” Lamborn said in a statement. “I am encouraged by Attorney General Sessions’ revision of the Cole Memo. The Cole Memo was an effort by the Obama Administration to create laws by executive action through the Department of Justice, as it did with immigration, rather than to enforce laws duly passed by the legislative branch.”

Sixty-nine bipartisan members of Congress responded to the policy change by Sessions with a passionate letter to House leadership and the appropriations committee, urging them to protect states that have legalized marijuana from federal incursion. Lamborn was the only member of Congress from Colorado that didn’t sign the letter.

“Well we can’t ignore that fact that under federal law, marijuana is still a controlled substance,” he said.
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Federal Legislation

At the moment, states that have legalized medical marijuana are protected by the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, an appropriations rider that prohibits federal prosecutors from using federal funds to interfere with state-legal medical cannabis. That rider must be renewed as part of each new federal spending bill.

Federal legislation offering more permanent protection for states has been introduced, but Republican leaders haven’t allowed them to come up for votes. Earlier this year, California Rep. Barbara Lee introduced the REFER Act, which would protect states with legalized recreational and medical marijuana from enforcement by the federal government.

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