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New bill would ease state-federal pot conflict

The Associated Press
Published:   |   Updated: April 12, 2013 at 07:30 PM

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SEATTLE — A bill introduced in Congress today would fix the conflict between the federal government's marijuana prohibition and state laws that allow medical or recreational use.

California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher said his bill, which has three Republican and three Democratic sponsors, would ensure that state laws on pot are respected by the feds.

The measure would amend the Controlled Substances Act to make clear that individuals and businesses, including marijuana dispensaries, who comply with state marijuana laws are immune from federal prosecution.

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

Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have medical marijuana laws, and two states, Washington and Colorado, last fall became the first to pass laws legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana.

The U.S. Justice Department has not said how it intends to respond to the Washington and Colorado votes. It could sue to block legal pot sales from ever happening, on the grounds they conflict with federal law.

President Barack Obama has said going after marijuana users in states where it's legal is not a priority. But the administration has raided some medical marijuana dispensaries it sees as little more than fronts for commercial marijuana sales.

Several other measures have also been introduced to change U.S. marijuana laws, including moves to legalize the industrial production of hemp and establish a hefty federal pot tax in states where it's legal. Any changes this year are considered a longshot.

Republican Reps. Justin Amash of Michigan and Don Young of Alaska and Democratic Reps. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, Steve Cohen of Tennessee and Jared Polis of Colorado co-sponsored Rohrabacher's bill.

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