A clever group of bipartisan lawmakers may have just introduced a small piece of legislation that could ultimately repeal prohibition on a national level under the disguise of legislation aimed at preserving states rights. The bill which was submitted by Representative Dana Rohrabacher of California, is entitled “The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2015.” It aims to prevent the federal government from interfering with states that have legalized marijuana for either recreational or medicinal purposes by making it illegal for Uncle Sam’s drug warriors to arrest and prosecute individuals and businesses that are in compliance with the statutes outlined by the state.
Interestingly, while the brass tacks of the latest federal proposal may come across as doomed, pie-in-the-sky marijuana reform, the implication surrounding this proposal is that it could actually serve as trap door to legalization nationwide. While the bill would do nothing to force Congress to amend the Controlled Substances Act to omit marijuana from the language or downgrade its Schedule I classification, it would, however, dictate that no person or company in states that have passed legislation to legalize the leaf can be prosecuted for violations of federal law. Essentially, this two-page document would grant immunity for those adhering to state law – a golden ticket for states all across the country to completely repeal prohibition without concerns for the repercussions handed down by federal authorities.
“The American people, through the 35 states that have liberalized laws banning either medical marijuana, marijuana in general, or cannabinoid oils, have made it clear that federal enforcers should stay out of their personal lives,” Rohrabacher said in a statement. “It’s time for restraint of the federal government’s over-aggressive weed warriors.”
Although twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for medicinal use and four states have passed legislation to legalize full-blown recreational cannabis markets, their operations are only permitted to exist as long as the federal government maintains its hands off approach to policing this supposed experiment in state’s rights. Yet, nothing has really changed on a federal level – Uncle Sam still considers marijuana a Schedule I dangerous drug with no accepted medical use, which classifies the herb under a legion of other highly addictive substances listed in the Controlled Substances Act.
As it stands, there’s a heavy illusion that the Justice Department is simply turning a blind eye to the business of marijuana in states that have passed laws to make it legal, but federal prosecutors continue to lunge at these communities like starving dogs, ultimately prepared to devour anything they can to satisfy the hunger. Even a recent federal spending bill, which was signed by President Obama and intended to keep the Justice Department from pushing around medical marijuana states, has done nothing to actually prevent the Drug Enforcement Administration from cracking down on various organizations for dealings not considered above the board in the eyes of Uncle Sam. These types of attacks were cosigned in an article in The Los Angeles Times, in which a spokesperson for the Justice Department clarified that the language of the omnibus spending bill had been misunderstood and that all it really was intended to do was prevent the federal government from pursuing states that have legalized medical marijuana – doing nothing to protect patients and dispensaries.
While U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has not launched a full scale attack on states like Colorado and Washington, his cronies operating in local offices all across the nation have been doing their part to keep the collective cannabis trade feeling the heat of old Sam’s breath on the backs of their necks. After all, recent reports from the organization Americans for Safe Access indicate the Obama Administration is still spending in upwards of $80 million per year to take down medical marijuana operations all across the country. That’s a substantial amount of spending for a supposed “hands-off” approach to policing states that have legalized marijuana.
It’s for this reason that Representative Rohrabacher’s latest legislative attempt at passing a subtle level of marijuana reform across the nation would be a Godsend for states that have already legalized the leaf, while perhaps even becoming a catalyst for others to follow in their footsteps. No longer would local lawmakers be able to use federal statutes banning marijuana as a reason to not support legislation aimed at reforming the laws in their neck of the woods – even though it is expected that many one-dimensional legislators would still exercise unnecessary resistance.
Still, for those states that have implemented progressive policies and taken a stand against prohibition on some level, this piece of legislation would be all that is needed to operate without the challenges and risks all of them are faced with at this juncture.
Many cannabis supporters are left wondering just how much of a chance the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act has at making it out of Congress alive. After all, a previous introduction of the bill back in 2013, which attracted the attention of 28 cosponsors, was obviously not a successful move. However, drug policy advocates not only believe that this year’s effort stands a better chance of going the distance, but that the course of action for which it begs is in a much stronger position than it was just a few years ago – perhaps allowing Congress to test the water surrounding more comprehensive proposals like the CARERS Act without committing to such broad reform.
“Unlike other bills that address only some aspects of the conflict between state and federal marijuana laws,” said Dan Riffle with the Marijuana Policy Project, “this bill resolves the issue entirely by letting states determine their own policies. 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.”
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