Last week, voters in Colorado passed a bill that changed state laws to allow possession of one ounce of marijuana and six plants, while Washington voters changed state laws to allow residents over 21 to purchase up to an ounce of weed from licensed dealers.
The problem, of course, is that federal law still prohibits marijuana possession, and the Obama administration has shown it’s willing and able to raid marijuana operations that have been sanctioned by state law.
It’s not yet clear how the feds will respond to the new laws in Washington and Colorado—the US Attorney’s office in Colorado says it is “reviewing the ballot initiative” and has no comment “at this time.” But Wednesday, two high-profile members of Congress publicly asked the Obama administration to respect the state laws, making them the first members to speak out strongly in support of the local laws.
Representatives Barney Frank and Ron Paul—who no doubt inhabit mostly opposite sides of the ideological spectrum—sent Obama a letter asking him to refrain from prosecution of people following the Colorado and Washington laws. (The duo has already introduced a bill to end the federal ban on marijuana).
The letter reads, in part:
We have sponsored legislation at the federal level to remove criminal penalties for the use of marijuana because of our belief in individual freedom. We recognize that this has not yet become national policy, but we believe there are many strong reasons for your administration to allow the states of Colorado and Washington to set the policies they believe appropriate in this regard, without the federal government overriding the choices made by the voters of these states.
Respect for the rights of states to set policies on those matters that primarily affect their own residents argues for federal noninterference in this case, as does respect for the wishes of the voters—again, on matters that primarily affect those in the relevant electorate. Additionally, we believe that scarce federal resources—law enforcement, prosecutorial, judicial, and penal—should not be expended in opposition to the wishes of the voters of Colorado and Washington, given the responsibility of all federal officials to find ways to withhold unwise or unnecessary expenditures.