Six Republican members of Congress just reintroduced the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act, previously submitted in 2013, which would amend the federal Controlled Substances Act by permitting states to develop their own marijuana policies without fear of federal prosecution. Four states have already legalized recreational use of marijuana for adults, while twenty-three states, D.C., and Guam allow some form of medical marijuana access. According to the think tank Third Way, 67% of Americans support Congress passing a bill that respects states developing their own marijuana policy.
“There are few principles more fundamental to the Republican Party than states’ rights. Allowing states to decide their own marijuana policy both fits with party ideology and makes much more sense than the laws currently on the books,” said Maj. Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a group of cops and other criminal justice professionals opposed to the drug war. “But until Congress decides to change the law all assurances of non-intervention from the federal government may prove meaningless.”
Many states considering new marijuana laws have been hesitant because doing so may violate federal law, and because the Drug Enforcement Administration has said it will act independently of federal mandates that limit federal interaction with state marijuana laws. The Department of Justice released a memo in August 2013 stating they would no longer go after states that decided to legalize marijuana, so long as businesses complied with common sense guidelines such as not selling marijuana to children and not being involved in organized criminal activity. The recently passed federal “cromnibus” spending bill also prohibits the DOJ from undermining states’ medical marijuana policies. Drug Enforcement Administrator Michele Leonhart has authorized her agency to ignore these mandates. Leonhart will be retiring next month after an official letter of “no confidence” was issued by the House Oversight Committee after hearings on a sex scandal in which DEA agents repeatedly had sex with prostitutes paid for by drug cartels.
LEAP is committed to ending decades of failed policy that have created underground markets and gang violence, fostered corruption and racism, and largely ignored the public health crisis of addiction. The war on drugs has cost more than one trillion dollars, yielded only disastrous outcomes, and ultimately diverted the penal system’s attention away from more important crimes.