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California conservative congressman defends state pot laws in Congress

April 29, 2013 at 10:43 AM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, April 29 (UPI) -- Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., said he believes his pro-marijuana bill may be gaining steam in Congress as more states approve its use in some manner.

His legislation, Respect State Marijuana Laws Act, would shield from federal prosecution people acting within their states' marijuana laws, whether for medicinal purposes or for adult recreational use, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday.

"The prospects are much better now," said the conservative Rohrabacher, whose co-sponsors include Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., a liberal.

The House last year rejected, on a 262-163 vote, an effort he led to block use of federal funds to prevent states from implementing medical marijuana laws.

A recent Pew Research Center poll indicated respondents, by nearly 2 to 1, said they believe the federal government should not enforce federal laws prohibiting the use of marijuana in states where it is legal.

"If people of the states recognize what a waste of limited resources this is, then the federal government should respect what the people of those states want for their own criminal justice system," Rohrabacher said.

Eighteen states and the District of Columbia allow marijuana to be used for medicinal purposes. Colorado and Washington state opted to allow recreational users to possess an ounce of marijuana.

Several more states are considering measures that would allow medical marijuana or its recreational use.

Gil Kerlikowske, President Obama's drug czar, recently said at the National Press Club the Justice Department's responsibility for enforcing the Controlled Substances Act, which classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, the same category as heroin and LSD, "remains unchanged."

"No state, no executive, can nullify a statute that's been passed by Congress," he said.

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