A Democratic congresswoman is pushing legislation that would give states that have legalized marijuana the authority to bypass the federal government’s ban on the drug.
Rep. Suzan DelBene of Washington said last week her bill would bridge the differences between state and federal law by allowing states that are “effectively” regulating marijuana to waive the U.S. government’s central drug control law for up to three years.
“These waivers will ensure people in states that have different laws than the federal government on marijuana are protected from prosecution, provided they meet certain requirements, as more and more states work to regulate marijuana in their own borders,” DelBene said in a statement.
Currently, 23 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized some form of marijuana while a handful of others have advanced ballot initiatives for potential legalization in 2016.
But the federal Controlled Substances Act still bars marijuana use, including possession for medical purposes, leaving individuals and businesses that operate in those states where pot is legal at risk of prosecution.
“States are currently unable to regulate as effectively as possible because they are hamstrung by federal preemption problems,” DelBene said, adding that her bill would “fix” this problem.
Cully Stimson, manager of The Heritage Foundation’s national security law program, said the legislation is a “not-so-subtle attempt” to circumvent the federal government’s scheduling of marijuana by framing marijuana legalization as a states’ rights issue.
“This has absolutely nothing to do with states’ rights or freedom to put whatever you want in your body,” Stimson said. “This has entirely to do with smoking pot and getting high.”
He said the Justice Department should continue to enforce the federal law because of the number of scientific studies finding marijuana to be both dangerous and addictive.
“If this administration thinks that marijuana should be legalized or reduced in the Controlled Substances Act, they should lead and convince Congress, which they won’t, that it should be rescheduled,” Stimson said.