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Republican CA Congressman Introduces ‘Respect State Marijuana Laws Act’

A California Congressman has introduced legislation that would allow states to determine their own marijuana policies without conflict of federal law.

Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher of California introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives this week that would allow only states to determine marijuana policies. The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act would resolve the current conflict between federal and state marijuana laws by exempting individuals and entities from certain provisions of the Controlled Substances Act. Provided that people and companies operate in compliance with state marijuana laws, they would be protected.

“This is commonsense legislation that is long overdue,” Robert Capecchi, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement. “It is time to end marijuana prohibition at the federal level and gives states the authority to determine their own policies. Federal tax dollars should not be wasted on arresting and prosecuting people who are following their state and local laws.”

While cannabis is classified as a Schedule I substance under U.S. federal law, eight states have legalized recreational marijuana and 28 have passed medical marijuana legislation. Nationwide support for recreational legalization is at 50 percent, according to a survey conducted a month ago by Harris Poll.

“Nine out of 10 Americans now live in states that have rejected federal marijuana prohibition by adopting some sort of marijuana policy reform,” Capecchi added. “This legislation would ease the tension between state and federal laws to ensure these state-level reforms that are successful. It would also help states address the public health and safety priorities shared by state and federal authorities.”

Under President Obama’s administration, the conflict between state and federal marijuana laws was not an issue. The Justice Department had agreed to a hands off policy regarding states that had adopted their own marijuana legislation. There are concerns that under the new administration and confirmation of Jeff Sessions as attorney general, that the federal government could crack down on states’ with marijuana laws.

DEA marijuana illegal

This is the third time Rohrabacher has introduced the bill, which is co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of representatives. He submitted almost identical legislation to Congress in both 2013 and 2015. Rohrabacher is also the sponsor of the Rohrabacher-Farr Medical Cannabis Amendment, a landmark piece of legislation that prohibits the Department of Justice from using federal funds to interfere with individuals acting in accordance with state medical cannabis laws. Last year, he admitted to using medical cannabis to help treat his arthritis.

“I happen to believe that the Federal Government shouldn’t be locking up anyone for making a decision of what he or she should privately consume, whether that person is rich or poor, and we should never be giving people the excuse, especially Federal authorities, that they have a right to stop people or introduce into their lives in order to prevent them and prevent others from smoking a weed, consuming something they personally want to consume,” Rohrabacher said.

The law wouldn’t have any impact on states that continue to prohibit marijuana. Cannabidiol (CBD) hemp oil, which is derived from the parts of hemp that are excluded from the Controlled Substances Act, would remain legal throughout the U.S.

“The call for federal marijuana policy reform is growing louder and louder,” said Don Murphy, Marijuana Policy Project 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.”

Learn more about cannabis laws throughout the U.S. by visiting our education page.