Rep. Jared Polis To Seek Federal Marijuana Decriminalization

Colorado Representative Jared Polis says the feds should stay away from marijuana enforcement in states that allow its use.

He's going to introduce a bill to keep marijuana laws at the local level.

Under Polis' structure, marijuana laws would be extremely local — similar to states that have so-called dry, alcohol- free counties. "It's not in the federal government's realm," Polis said.


Through regulation, Polis says Colorado has earned tax revenues. He also says federal decriminalization could also cause banks to lift lift their bans on opening and maintaining accounts for dispensaries, because they would no longer have to fear they weren't acting in compliance with federal law.

Polis likely will have the support of the libertarians for his bill. As Dave Kopel, an adjunct law professor and long-time libertarian says:

"Marijuana was legal from the time when the pilgrims showed up through the 1930s, and the country grew from humble beginnings to a world superpower with legal marijuana," Kopel said. "I think it's a waste of criminal justice resources," to prosecute pot cases.

Polis wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder last February asking him to ensure the feds complied with its October 19th memo on respecting state law. In it he said,

Treating drug policy as primarily an issue of public health, as opposed to an issue of criminal justice, is both practical and compassionate and it has been and will continue to be supported by the voters of Colorado.

Rep. Polis posted the letter on the Colorado Blog Square State, and added:

The DEA must do more to stop their rogue agents from harassing and raiding our medical marijuana dispensaries, which are legal under state law. That's why I sent this letter to Attorney General Holder today.

Colorado Springs alone brought in $500k in tax revenue from medical marijuana in 2010. State-wide, the tax revenue from medical marijuana was $2.2 million.

Can Polis succeed where others have failed? Maybe. No one seriously looks at personal use of marijuana as a crime. Maybe Republicans, including tea partiers, can be persuaded to view decriminalization as a states rights issue, and as a way to help their constituents in cash-strapped states. And if it doesn't pass in 2011, it's still a good idea to get the conversation started and hope in 2012, the smarter view will prevail.

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    That is roughly the Prohibition repeal (none / 0) (#1)
    by andgarden on Sun Jan 02, 2011 at 06:24:33 AM EST
    compromise. I am optimistic that we will get there eventually. At least in this case there is no need to overcome a Constitutional amendment.

    Good for Polis (none / 0) (#2)
    by kdm251 on Sun Jan 02, 2011 at 09:50:44 AM EST
    It is good to see a congressman actually using the power that comes with the office for something worthwhile.  Inhope Diane Degette is watching

    Does Polis's proposed legislation (none / 0) (#3)
    by oculus on Sun Jan 02, 2011 at 01:06:08 PM EST
    remove cannabis from Schedule I?  Wiki link

    It would have to taken out of Schedule I. (none / 0) (#4)
    by Peter G on Sun Jan 02, 2011 at 01:22:17 PM EST
    Which of course is something Congress (with the President's signature) can do, just by saying so -- exactly as "marihuana" was placed in Schedule I by legislative fiat, even though it doesn't meet the criteria for that classification.  Which leads to my comment that I can't figure out what Polis means by saying, "It's not in the federal government's realm."   Perhaps he just means to say that marijuana regulation and/or prohibition shouldn't be a federal matter. That's a reasonable policy position, and as Andgarden notes, state-level or even county-by-county regulation (or not) is a time-honored compromise position between federal prohibition and federal legalization.  But Polis's use of "isn't" is just wrong as a matter of constitutional law.  There is no doubt that the market in marijuana distribution is both an international and an interstate phenomenon that qualifies as part of "interstate commerce" under Article I of the Constitution and thus is potentially validly subject to federal control, if Congress so chooses.

    My impression also. Seems to me (none / 0) (#5)
    by oculus on Sun Jan 02, 2011 at 01:26:13 PM EST
    Polis is taking the wrong approach.

    Why just marijuana? (none / 0) (#6)
    by diogenes on Sun Jan 02, 2011 at 04:41:52 PM EST
    By this logic, all drugs, both illegal (methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin) and medicinal (but not FDA approved) could also be regulated at the state level.  
    If you want this to happen, then the FDA has to take marijuana off of schedule one.  

    Better left to states.. (none / 0) (#7)
    by kdog on Mon Jan 03, 2011 at 11:37:08 AM EST
    than the feds...better still if left to the individual than the states.

    As for wholesale/retail sales, yes some regs would be required, same as all alcohol and/or tobacco, namely no sales to minors...but aside from that human being plants seed, human being sees seed grow into plant, human being picks buds, dries them, and smokes/eats them...nobody's business but theirs.  It is an inalienable basic human right...as basic as it gets actually.    

    President could do it tomorrow (but he won't) (none / 0) (#8)
    by beowulf on Mon Jan 03, 2011 at 11:13:38 PM EST
    Good for Polis but but not only can Congress remove marijuana from schedule I, the President (by direction to his HHS Secretary) can unilaterally down-schedule or legalize any drug.

    The Secretary's findings on scientific and medical issues are binding on the DEA. The HHS Secretary can even unilaterally legalize cannabis: "[I]f the Secretary recommends that a drug or other substance not be controlled, the Attorney General shall not control the drug or other substance." 21 U.S.C. § 811b.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Removal_of_cannabis_from_Schedule_I_of_the_Controlled_Substances_Act#Ru lemaking_proceedings