Since two states passed ballot initiatives last week to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana, the question on everyone’s mind has been how federal officials will respond, given that the federal Controlled Substances Act bans any marijuana possession or distribution. Although some uses of the drug will be legal under Colorado and Washington law, federal officials retain the right to prosecute individuals in those states, and they may even challenge the laws in court as preempted by the CSA.
But what if both the state and federal laws could happily coexist? Colorado’s Democratic members of Congress are working on a proposed amendment to the Controlled Substances Act that would enable states to legalize marijuana free from concerns about federal prosecutions. The Colorado Independent reports:
Congressional staffers told the Independent that Colorado Reps Diana DeGette (CD1), Ed Perlmutter (CD7) and Jared Polis (CD2) are working independently and together on bills that would exempt states where pot has been legalized from the Controlled Substances Act.[…]
[T]he lawmakers expect to gain support for their proposal on the Hill by working with the Washington State delegation, congressional representatives from medical marijuana states, as well as a broader coalition of representatives who believe in greater states’ rights or who support easing federal marijuana laws.
They added that the Democratic lawmakers will also reach out to Colorado’s two Democratic senators and its four Republican congressmen.
DeGette’s bill may be introduced as early as next week, according to a Denver Post editorial endorsing the proposal.
Commentator and talk show host David Sirota has started a petition calling on President Obama to support such a bill that has already garnered the 25,000 signatures needed for the petition to be reviewed by the White House, through the Obama administration’s “We the People” program.
Meanwhile, Reps. Ron Paul (R-TX) and Barney Frank (D-MA) sent a letter to President Obama urging his administration to refrain from prosecuting marijuana activity that would be legal under state law. This is the approach the Department of Justice had initially taken to medical marijuana laws. But the Department’s official position has since fluctuated, as it has become increasingly aggressive in prosecuting medical marijuana dispensaries. Paul and Frank are the sponsors of legislation that would completely remove criminal sanctions at the federal level for the use of marijuana.