New Attorney General Jeff Sessions is an outspoken opponent of cannabis legalization, but President Trump's top law enforcer might not get a chance to enforce federal prohibition. Yesterday, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R - CA) introduced a bill to the House that would officially tell the feds to butt out of state-legalized cannabis industries - recreational as well as medical.
The Respect State Marijuana Rights Act would offer state-legalized cannabis industries more protection than they've ever had before. Right now, the 29 states that have legalized medical marijuana and the 8 that have legalized recreational use are operating in a legal gray area. Since federal prohibition is still in effect nationwide, a rider in the federal budget and an outdated directive from the Obama Administration are the only things preventing the DEA from enforcing cannabis prohibition in states like California, New York and Colorado.
So everyone involved in the industry - from large-scale growers to medical marijuana patients - are vulnerable to prosecution.
But if Congressman Rohrabacher's bill passes, members of those industries will gain legal protection from DEA raids for the first time. And states that oppose cannabis legalization shouldn't mind since the bill wouldn't change anything for them. "For those few States that have thus far maintained a policy of strict prohibition, my bill would change nothing," he said while introducing the bill to the House.
Rohrabacher added that the issue is really a matter of personal liberty.
"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 prevent others from smoking a weed, consuming something they personally want to consume."
A Cannabis Crusader
This isn't the first time Rohrabacher has introduced such a bill. He submitted almost identical legislation to Congress in 2013 and 2015. But things are different this time around. Rohrabacher is part of a new Cannabis Caucus in Congress, a bipartisan group of representatives dedicated to advancing marijuana reform at the federal level, which has lagged behind the states for decades. (For instance, the federal government still defines cannabis as a substance that's as dangerous as heroin.)
Rohrabacher also has some sway in the White House. He is an outspoken support of President Trump, and he was even once considered a dark-horse candidate for secretary of state before The Donald tapped former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson for the job. Of course, that doesn't mean that the bill is a done deal, but it might help get state cannabis rights signed into law if the legislation makes its way to Trump's desk.
And Rohrabacher isn't afraid to put his career on the line when it comes to cannabis. Last year, he became the first sitting congressperson to come out of the cannabis closet. On May 24, he told a crowd of marijuana reformers gathered on Capital Hill that he recently used a cannabis topical to treat his arthritis.
"It's a candle," said the former speechwriter for President Reagan. "And you light the candle. And a wax is in there. And it melts down. And you rub it on whatever you've got problems with. And you know what: I tried it about two weeks ago. And it's the first time in a year and a half that I had a decent night's sleep because the arthritis pain was gone."
Hopefully he'll also help America make the pains of cannabis prohibition go away.
Banner image: Congressman Rohrabacher speaking at the 2016 Young Americans for Liberty California State Convention. (wikipedia.org)