Marijuana: Eighteen legislators ask feds to respect Colorado's Amendment 64
On Friday, Congresswoman Diana DeGette's office announced the introduction of the Respect States' and Citizens' Rights Act, a bill intended to ensure that federal marijuana laws don't exempt the Colorado voter-approved Amendment 64 and a similar measure in Washington state. DeGette's also signed a letter with seventeen fellow legislators asking the Justice Department to respect pot laws in the two states. See the letter and get more details below.
Co-sponsors of the DeGette measure include Oregon's Earl Blumenauer, Tennessee's Steve Cohen and California's Sam Farr, as well as two colleagues from Colorado -- Jared Polis, a longtime supporter of marijuana reform, and, more surprisingly, Mike Coffman, a Republican who opposed the passage of Amendment 64.
"I voted against Amendment 64," he confirmed in a statement, "and I strongly oppose the legalization of marijuana, but I also have an obligation to respect the will of the voters given the passage of this initiative, and so I feel obligated to support this legislation."
The bill, shared below, would make minor changes in one section of the Controlled Substances Act, as well as inserting what's labeled a "Special Rule Regarding State Marihuana [sic] Laws." The suggested passage, featuring an antiquated spelling of "marijuana," reads:
In the case of any State law that pertains to marihuana, no provision of this title shall be construed as indicating an intent on the part of Congress to occupy the field in which that provision operates, including criminal penalties, to the exclusion of State law on the same subject matter, nor shall any provision of this title be construed as preempting any State law.The aforementioned letter, on view in its entirety below, urges a similar approach to Amendment 64 and Washington's Initiative 502 by the U.S. Justice Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Here's an excerpt from the document, addressed to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and DEA administrator Michele Leonhart:
We are writing to urge federal law enforcement to consider carefully the recent decisions by the people of Colorado and Washington to legalize small amounts of marijuana for personal use by adults. Under the new laws, each state will establish a comprehensive regulatory scheme governing the production, sale and personal use of marijuana. We believe that it would be a mistake for the federal government to focus enforcement action on individuals whose actions are in compliance with state law.By the way, Polis had a memorable encounter with Leonhart in June, during which the DEA administrator repeatedly refused to say that marijuana was any less harmful than heroin. Here's a video of the exchange:
Bill co-sponsor Coffman did not sign the letter, unlike Polis, DeGette, Blumenauer, Cohen and Farr. However, more than ten other legislators who didn't add their name to the legislation have, including Colorado Representative Ed Perlmutter.
Why has Perlmutter not yet become a co-sponsor of DeGette's proposal?
Continue for more about the legislators' letter regarding Amendment 64.