Six Congressional Republicans and six Democratic co-sponsors re-introduced the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act. The legislation was submitted in 2013 and it would amend the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) by giving states the freedom to develop their own marijuana policies. The bipartisan bill would effectively end the federal war on marijuana in states that have legalized it.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) August 2013 Cole memorandum stated that the department would not pursue prosecutions in states that decided to legalize marijuana, as long as businesses complied with common sense guidelines such as not selling marijuana to children and not being involved in organized criminal activity.
Strong support from Democrats and Republicans
The re-introduced 2013 bill is co-sponsored by Republican Representatives Dana Rohrabacher (California), Justin Amash (Michigan), Duncan Hunter (California), Thomas Massie (Kentucky), Tom McClintock (California), and Don Young (Arkansas), along with six Democratic Representatives: Earl Blumenauer (Oregon), Steve Cohen (Tennessee), Dina Titus (Nevada), Janice Schakowsky (Illinois), Jared Polis (Colorado), and Mark Pocan (Wisconsin).
“This bill resolves the issue entirely by letting states determine their own policies,” stated Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project. “It’s the strongest federal legislation introduced to date, and it’s the bill most likely to pass in a Republican-controlled Congress. Nearly every GOP presidential contender has said marijuana policy should be a state issue, not a federal one, essentially endorsing this bill”.
DEA chief resigns after sex scandal
A number of states that have contemplated marijuana reform, but they have been hesitant because the DEA said it will act independently of federal mandates that limit federal interaction with state marijuana laws. Recent developments, however, should lead to the DEA taking a different stance on marijuana.
In December, President Obama signed a spending bill that included a provision that prohibits the DOJ from undermining states’ medical marijuana policies. After this bill was signed the Chief of the DEA, Michele Leonhart, told her agency to ignore these mandates.
Leonhart has resigned in the wake of an alleged sex scandal involving DEA agents under her watch. The House Oversight Committee had issued an official letter of “no confidence” after conducting hearings pertaining to the scandal in which DEA agents repeatedly had sex with prostitutes paid for by drug cartels.
President Barack Obama recently stated that the divide between Republicans and Democrats on marijuana politics is narrowing. The fact that six Democrats and six Republicans have re-introduced the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act is clear proof of this political reality.
Marijuana advocates hope that President Obama will capitalize on this opportunity and appoint someone who is more realistic on the issue of marijuana reform. The appointment of a new DEA chief who is open to marijuana reform will make a profound difference going forward.