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Congressmen to Feds: Respect State Rights, Stop Enforcing Marijuana Laws

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At a protest in Los Angeles. | Photo: NohoDamon/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach, sponsored legislation today that would stop authorities from prosecuting federal laws against marijuana use in states that have decriminalized the drug.

Rohrabacher and five other representatives today introduced the "Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2013." The other sponsors are Reps. Justin Amash, R-Mich., Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., Jared Polis, D-Colo., and Don Young, R-Alaska.

"This bipartisan bill represents a common-sense approach that establishes federal government respect for all states' marijuana laws," Rohrabacher said. "It does so by keeping the federal government out of the business of criminalizing marijuana activities in states that don't want it to be criminal."

In November, voters in Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize recreational use of marijuana. In California, voters have approved the use of medicinal marijuana, but federal prosecutors have aggressively pursued some organizations they say have illegally made a profit selling medical marijuana.

A spokesman for Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, who represents portions of north Orange County, said he was unaware of the details of the legislation.

"Unfortunately, because the bill has only been introduced today, and because he has been in meetings all day, Congressman Lowenthal has not had an opportunity to review the bill," Lowenthal aide Keith Higginbotham said. "The congressman prefers not to comment on bills he has not had an opportunity to review."

Kris Hermes of Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana advocacy group, said Rohrabacher's legislation might encourage federal authorities to cease crackdowns on medical marijuana in the state.

"We are strongly supportive of congressional efforts to draw a stark line for states that choose to establish their own public health laws with respect to medical marijuana, so that those state can develop, adopt and implement such laws without interference by the federal government," Hermes said.

"While it doesn't represent a much-needed comprehensive federal policy on medical marijuana, it would force the Justice Department to end its current aggressive stance on the issue."

Rohrabacher noted that 18 states and the District of Columbia have laws decriminalizing marijuana to some extent and that a recent Pew Research poll showed 60 percent of Americans do not want the federal government to enforce federal laws against marijuana in states where it is legal.

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