Colorado Reps. Mike Coffman and Diana DeGette are reaching across the aisle to try to allow states to set their own agenda on marijuana.
The Aurora Republican and the Denver Democrat introduced the “Respect States and Citizens’ Rights Act of 2017” on Thursday. Coffman and DeGette are introducing the bill at a time when the Trump Administration has been signaling its intention to challenge state marijuana laws.
“Passing this bill is now more important than ever before,” DeGette said in a statement. “This bill makes clear that we’re not going back to the days of raids on legal dispensaries, of folks living in fear that they’re not going to get the medical marijuana they need, or that they might get jailed for using it.”
This isn’t the first time Coffman and DeGette have tried to get their “Respect States and Citizens’ Rights Act” through. The bill that would ensure that the federal government does not pre-empt state laws on marijuana was first introduced in 2012 when Barack Obama still was in the White House. It was reintroduced in 2013 and again in 2015, according to GovTrack.
“My colleagues and I — along with our constituents — spoke out frequently during the Obama administration to make clear we didn’t want the federal government denying money to our states or taking other punitive steps that would undermine the will of our citizens,” DeGette said. “Lately, we’ve had even more reason for these concerns, given Trump administration statements.”
In April, Attorney General Jeff Sessions told the Justice Department via a memo to look at the nation’s marijuana enforcement policy in terms of how it’s meeting the “department’s overall strategy on reducing violent crime and with administration goals and priorities.”
The memo came after Sessions was quoted saying, “Our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs will destroy your life.”
Coffman said even though he opposed the legalization of marijuana, he respects Colorado’s decision in 2012 to allow those 21 and older to use the drug recreationally.
“Since this is clearly not a matter of interstate commerce, I believe that the people of Colorado had every right, under the U.S. Constitution, to decide this issue for themselves, and as their representative in Congress, I have an obligation to respect the will of the people of Colorado and that’s why I’m reintroducing this bill with Congresswoman DeGette,” he said in a statement.
The “Respect States and Citizens’ Rights Act” would create an exemption to Article VI of the Constitution that rules federal law pre-empts state law in cases where they conflict. The president would have to sign the bill for it to be enacted, according to DeGette spokeswoman Lynne Weil.
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