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John Connelly, left, inhales marijuana vapor just after midnight Saturday, March 2, 2013, with the help of bar worker Jenae DeCampo, right, in the upstairs lounge area of Stonegate, a pizza-and-rum bar in Tacoma, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) John Connelly, left, inhales marijuana vapor just after midnight Saturday, March 2, 2013, with the help of bar worker Jenae DeCampo, right, in the upstairs lounge area of Stonegate, a pizza-and-rum bar in Tacoma, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)  

Bipartisan bill seeks to protect pot smokers from the feds

Greg Campbell
Contributor

A bipartisan group of lawmakers wants the federal government to butt out of states’ decisions to legalize and regulate marijuana, whether it’s for medical or recreational purposes.

The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act, introduced in Congress by a consortium of congresspeople led by Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, would immunize pot smokers, growers and sellers in permissive states from federal prosecution.

Eighteen states and Washington, D.C., have some form of medical marijuana laws and two — Colorado and Washington — recently passed laws legalizing pot for recreational use.

The bill is co-sponsored by Republicans Don Young and Justin Amash and Democrats Jared Polis, Earl Blumenauer and Steve Cohen.

“This bipartisan bill represents a common-sense approach that establishes federal government respect for all states’ marijuana laws,” Rohrabacher said in a statement. ”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.”

The bill comes after the release of a Pew Research Center survey last week that shows a majority of Americans, 52 percent, favor legalization for the first time in 40 years. Sixty percent say the federal government shouldn’t enforce marijuana prohibition in states that have legalized it.

“There is an incredible amount of momentum to change marijuana laws around the country and we now have this bill that will allow people to consume marijuana and operate marijuana businesses without fear of federal prosecution,” said Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, in an interview with The Daily Caller News Foundation. “It literally will immunize them from the Controlled Substances Act.”

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a group of 5,000 police officers, judges and prosecutors fighting for the end of marijuana prohibition, applauded the bill as evidence that politicians are finally catching up to public opinion.

“In a time of bitter partisanship, it is quite telling that both Republicans and Democrats are calling for respect for the reform of marijuana laws,” said Executive Director Neill Frankin, in a statement. “Polls show this is a winning issue for politicians, and change is inevitable.”

Not everyone is convinced that’s the case. Dr. Kevin Sabet, who heads a national anti-legalization effort called Project SAM (which stands for Smart Approaches to Marijuana) doesn’t think the proposed bill will amount to much.

“Since users who consume small amounts of marijuana are rarely, if ever, noticed by federal authorities, this provision would have little real world effect,” he said in an email to The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“It would, however, represent something of a symbolic victory towards repealing all of our marijuana laws,” he wrote. “But of course, provisions like this have been introduced before by the same crowd, and like in those instances this stands no chance of going through.”

Rohrabacher’s bill would add language to the federal Controlled Substances Act that reads: “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the provisions of this subchapter related to marihuana shall not apply to any person acting in compliance with State laws relating to the production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, or delivery of marihuana.”

Voters in Colorado and Washington voted to legalize pot for recreational use for those 21 and older. State lawmakers in Colorado are currently crafting a bill to regulate retail sales.

Additional reporting by Robby Soave.

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