A bipartisan group of seven Republicans and six Democrats filed new Congressional legislation that would protect people who are acting in compliance with state marijuana laws from federal prosecution and punishment.
Titled the “Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2017,” the bill adds a new provision to the Controlled Substances Act that reads:
“Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the provisions of this subchapter related to marihuana shall not apply to any person acting in compliance with State laws relating to the production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, or delivery of marihuana.”
In a lengthy floor speech announcing the bill, chief sponsor Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) argued that the legislation falls in line with the principles of limited government and states’ rights that so many in his party profess to value:
“My bill would then make sure that Federal law is aligned with the States’ and the people in those States’ desires so that the residents and businesses wouldn’t have to worry about Federal prosecution. For those few States that have thus far maintained a policy of strict prohibition, my bill would change nothing. I think that this is a reasonable compromise that places the primary responsibility of police powers back in the States and the local communities that are most directly affected.”
“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 intrude into their lives in order to prevent them and prevent others from smoking a weed, consuming something they personally want to consume.”
Rohrabacher, who ardently supported Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign and was reportedly considered as a possible secretary of state nominee, cited the new president’s pledges to respect state marijuana laws.
The California congressman then gave a bit of a history lesson, likening current federal policy impeding state laws to the British monarchy that U.S. founding fathers rebelled against, and comparing marijuana criminalization to the earlier failed prohibition of alcohol.
Turning one marijuana stereotype on its head, he decried the federal government’s “paranoia” regarding the truth about marijuana as evidenced by the DEA’s longstanding efforts to block research on its medical benefits.
And referencing the increasingly contentious debate about health care reform, Rohrabacher said:
“Remember, as we discuss people’s health care, Republicans over and over again say: You shouldn’t get in between a doctor and his patient. We believe in the doctor-patient relationship. That is true for medical marijuana as well. Do we believe in these principles?”
The new bill is the fourth piece of marijuana reform legislation to be introduced in the 115th Congress.
It is is identical to a bill Rohrabacher and others filed in the last Congress, which ended up garnering 20 co-sponsors but did not receive a hearing or a vote.
This post was originally published on February 8, 2017, it was updated on March 24, 2017.