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Areas of Pratice
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Marijuana Bill would eliminate Conflict between State and Federal Laws
Eighteen states (including California) and Washington, D.C., have legalized marijuana use and possession for medical purposes, and two states (Colorado and Washington) now permit its use for recreational purposes. You might think that the passage by the states of these laws would be the end of the matter, insofar as the issue of legality is concerned. But as we have pointed out in the past (see our blog of November 13, 2012, “Marijuana Referenda and the War on Drugs”), marijuana remains a Schedule I drug under federal law, which prohibits its use and possession. And from a legal point of view, the state statutes legalizing the drug under any circumstances has no effect on federal law.
This discrepancy in the treatment of marijuana has led to a number of odd results, including the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries under state law which are then shut down by federal agents. Isn’t there a better use for federal resources!?
Last week a bill was introduced in Congress which seeks to require the federal government to respect the state laws relating to marijuana. H.R. 1523 was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by a group of bipartisan sponsors, including Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R – Calif.). The measure, entitled “Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2013”, is short and to the point. What it says, in essence, is that federal laws do not apply to anyone who is using, producing, possessing, distributing, administering, delivering or dispensing marijuana, where they are doing so in compliance with state law.
This is obviously just the beginning, and we do expect that there will be serious opposition among the anti-pot groups in both the House and the Senate. But it should be noted that the feelings among the citizens of our country have been changing over the past decades concerning whether marijuana should or should not be legalized. In fact, a study published this month by the Pew Research Center indicates that the majority of Americans, for the first time in over 40 years, support the legalization of the drug. While only about 12% of the people supported legalization in the 1960’s, that number is now 52%, and has been growing steadily. Because the percentage of those in favor is strongest among the younger members of the population, we expect that the number of those in favor of legalization will continue to grow in the coming years.
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