Polis set to introduce bill to allow states to legalize marijuana

Rep. Jared Polis (Kersgaard)

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis plans to be a co-sponsor on legislation Thursday to allow states to legalize marijuana without federal interference.

Rep. Barney Frank, D-MA, and Rep. Ron Paul, R-TX, announced today they will introduce the bi-partisan legislation Thursday, June 23, in an attempt to end the federal war on marijuana and let states legalize, regulate, tax, and control marijuana without federal interference. Besides Polis, co-sponsors include Rep. John Conyers, D-MI, Rep. Steve Cohen, D-TN, and Rep. Barbara Lee D-CA.

Reached by email, Polis said, “It’s time for the federal government to end the 40-year failure that has been the war on drugs. Colorado has shown that marijuana can and should be regulated at the state level. Instead of wasting money enforcing a prohibition that doesn’t work, we should create jobs, increase local tax revenues, and make our communities safer by de-federalizing marijuana policy and allowing state-approved, legal medical marijuana businesses to continue free of federal interference.”

The legislation would limit the federal government’s role in marijuana enforcement to cross-border or inter-state smuggling, allowing people to legally grow, use or sell marijuana in states where it is legal. The legislation is the first bill ever introduced in Congress to end federal marijuana prohibition.

46.5% of Californians voted last year to legalize marijuana in their state, and voters in Colorado, Washington and possibly other states are expected to vote on the issue next year. In the past year at least five state legislatures have considered legalizing marijuana, including California, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Washington. 16 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use, but the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) continues to arrest people under federal law and U.S. Attorneys have in recent months sent threatening letters to state policymakers in an apparent attempt to meddle in state decision-making.

The legislation would end state/federal conflicts over marijuana policy, reprioritize federal resources, and provide more room for states to do what is best for their own citizens, Frank and Paul said in a press release.

Montana State Rep. Diane Sands told the Colorado Independent earlier this month that she was trying to organize national support for just such a move by the federal government.

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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