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California Congress Member Introduces Bill To Limit Federal Power On Marijuana

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Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) reintroduced the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act to the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill — also known as H.R. 975 — would protect people from prosecution under the federal Controlled Substances Act as long as they act in accordance with their own state’s marijuana laws.

Perhaps the greatest obstacles the cannabis industry faces is the severe disconnect between state laws and the federal government’s classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. The thriving (and rapidly expanding) industry operates largely thanks to two documents: the Cole Memo, issued by former Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole in 2013, and the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, which passed Congress in 2014.

Rohrabacher, it should be noted, is a Republican. He co-authored it with two Democrats who have since retired from Congress, Maurice Hinchey of New York and Sam Farr of California. Th e law essentially prohibited the Justice Department from using any funds to interfere with state medical marijuana laws. Its passage reflected the first time any chamber of Congress had voted in favor of protections for medical marijuana.

Given its inclusion in a spend-ing bill, Rohrabacher-Farr must be renewed each fiscal year in order to continue offering the protections it put in place. Currently set to expire on April 28, it faces new rules enacted by Speaker Paul Ryan that no longer permit budgetary amendments related to guns, abortion, LGBT issues, and marijuana.

This is why Rohrabacher is sponsoring H.R. 975.

Rohrabacher has twice attempted to pass similar legislation, first in 2013 and again in 2015. While the congress-member did not say whether his introduction of the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act earlier this month was in response to marijuana opponent Jeff Sessions’ confirmation as the U.S. attorney general, the timing is certainly signifi cant.

In a press release, Robert Capecchi, the director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project commended the bill.
“This is commonsense legislation that is long overdue,” Capecchi wrote. “It is time to end marijuana prohibition at the federal level and give states the authority to determine their own policies.”

Th e Respect State Marijuana Laws Act currently enjoys bipartisan sup-port from 12 additional House members, including Democrats Steve Cohen (Tennessee), Mark Pocan (Wisconsin), Earl Blumenauer (Oregon), Dina Titus (Nevada), Jared Polis (Colorado), and Barbara Lee (California). There are also six Republicans in support: Dean Young (Alaska), Ted S. Yoho (Florida), Tom McClintock (California), Duncan Hunter (California), Justin Amash (Michigan), and Thomas Massie (Kentucky). However polarized American politics may be, it’s curious to note that cannabis has become a bipartisan issue.

Given the record of the cannabis industry — helping patients, creating numerous jobs, and bringing in millions in tax revenue — there is some hope that a Congress that has twice failed to garner the necessary support may now change course and take the charge in ensuring the rights of states to regulate marijuana. Then it’s up to the Senate and President Trump.