DeGette introduces bill to block feds from enforcing marijuana laws in states where its legal

Apr 1, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) introduced legislation today that would prevent the federal government from enforcing its prohibition on marijuana in states, such as Colorado, where it is legal for residents to possess and use the drug.

The legislation – known as the Respect States’ and Citizens’ Rights Act – would amend the Controlled Substances Act to prevent federal preemption of state’s marijuana laws. If approved, marijuana-related business owners in states such as Colorado, where cannabis is legal, would be able to promote and grow their businesses without the threat of federal intervention. It would also allow the states themselves to establish the regulatory frameworks needed to reasonably tax and regulate the industry, without the threat of a federal court challenge.

“Colorado’s marijuana-related business owners are just like any other legitimate business owners in our state, and are currently contributing more than one billion a year to our state’s economy,” DeGette said. “There’s no reason why they should have to go to bed every night worried that the federal government could suddenly take it all away from them, and treat them like a criminal.”

The legislation comes on the heels of the recent appointment of William Barr as the nation’s new Attorney General. Barr, who had previously served as Attorney General under president George H.W. Bush from 1991 – 1993, is known for his tough-on-drugs approach, which he exhibited during his first stint as the nation’s top cop.

But in the time since Barr previously led the Justice Department, 10 states – Colorado, Alaska, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Michigan, Vermont – and the District of Columbia have all legalized the recreational use and possession of marijuana for their residents.

Barr tried to tamp down any concerns that these marijuana-friendly states may have during his recent Senate confirmation hearing by saying he would respect state marijuana laws. But during that same hearing, he also said that the “current system is untenable” and that he personally supports federal marijuana prohibition.

The remarks have raised concerns regarding the administration’s plans to enforce the nation’s marijuana laws going forward. And it’s led DeGette to reintroduce the legislation she originally filed in 2012, immediately after Colorado voters approved an amendment to their state’s Constitution to legalize marijuana, to try to shield the residents and business owners in states such as hers from any future adverse actions by the feds.

The full text of DeGette’s legislation introduced today can be found here.