On Feb. 7, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) introduced the Respect State Marijuana Rights Act, legislation that would amend the Controlled Substances Act to prohibit federal prosecution of marijuana buyers and sellers who comply with their state cannabis laws.
The legislation would strengthen legal protections from marijuana industries residing in states that have legalized cannabis, essentially protecting marijuana sellers from federal prosecution.
“Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the provisions … related to marijuana shall not apply to any person acting in compliance with State laws relating to production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, or delivery of marijuana,” the bill states, according to Congress.gov.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been an outspoken critic of marijuana. As the head of the DOJ, he would have the authority to pursue federal prosecution against the cannabis industry. In January, Sessions was noncommittal on the issue during his confirmation hearing before the Senate.
“I won’t commit to never enforcing federal law … but absolutely it’s a problem of resources for the federal government,” Sessions said, according to MarketWatch. “Good judgment on how to handle these cases will be a responsibility of mine, which won’t be an easy decision, but I will try to do my duty in a fair and just way.”
Marijuana is designated a Schedule I drug, meaning that the federal government still views cannabis with the same legality as controlled substances such as heroin. While medical marijuana is legalized in 28 states and recreational marijuana is legalized in eight states, cannabis industries within these states could still face federal prosecution if pursued by the Department of Justice (DOJ).
“I happen to believe that the Federal Government shouldn’t be locking up anyone for making a decision of what he or she should privately consume, whether that person is rich or poor, and we should never be giving people the excuse, especially Federal authorities, that they have a right to stop people or intrude into their lives in order to prevent them and others from … consuming something they personally want to consume,” Rohrabacher said of his legislation, according to Civilized.
The California lawmaker added that his bill would not impact states that continue to prohibit marijuana sales and usage.
Rohrabacher has been an advocate for marijuana legalization. In May 2016, he disclosed to his constituents that he had used a cannabis topical to successfully treat his arthritis.
On Feb. 16, Rohrabacher and three other lawmakers formed the Congressional Cannabis Caucus to develop policies that promote marijuana decriminalization nationwide, Fortune reports.
“We’re stepping forward together to say we’ve got to make major changes in our country’s attitude towards cannabis,” Rohrabacher said. “And if we do, many people are going to live better lives, it’s going to be better for our country, better for people, and it makes economic sense at a time when every penny must count for government.”