These are high times for states rights.
A bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives Friday that would effectively tell the U.S. Justice Department to stop going after marijuana users in states where the drug has been made legal for either medical or recreational use.
Dubbed the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act, H.R. 1523 would modify the federal Controlled Substances Act and grant immunity from federal prosecution to any person acting in accordance with state marijuana laws.
“This bipartisan bill represents a common-sense approach that establishes federal government respect for all states’ marijuana laws,” Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), the bill’s main sponsor, said in a press release. “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.”
So far, 18 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws legalizing the use of medical marijuana, and in 2012 Washington and Colorado became the first two states to legalize the recreational use of the drug for people over the age of 21.
The bill’s bipartisan sponsors include Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Don Young (R-Alaska), Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.).
A survey released last week by the Pew Research Center found that, for the first time, more Americans now favor legalizing marijuana. Fifty-two percent of those asked said they thought pot should be legal, while 45% said the drug should be illegal.
As voters in more states have legalized marijuana, the drug is still classified as a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act, and its possession, sale and use is subject to prosecution.
Public opinion, however, appears to be in staunch opposition to the enforcement federal marijuana laws over state measures.
Sixty percent of those surveyed told Pew that the federal government should not try to prosecute marijuana users in states where the drug has been made legal.
By David Knowles