US representatives send letter urging president not to act against Colorado pot law
November 14, 2012
Steamboat Springs — From the odd pairing of U.S. representatives who already introduced legislation to end the federal ban on marijuana in 2011 comes a letter on behalf of voters in Colorado and Washington, the two states that recently voted to legalize marijuana for recreational use by those 21 and older.
Reps. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and Ron Paul, R-Texas, wrote to the Obama Administration asking it not to prosecute individuals in the two states who use marijuana in compliance with their state's laws.
Colorado voters passed Amendment 64 with about 55 percent of the vote. Washington passed Initiative Measure No. 502 with almost the same margin.
Both measures have age restrictions and provide for taxes on the sale of marijuana.
In Colorado, no recreational marijuana facility could open until Oct. 1, 2013, which is the soonest the state could begin processing business applications. The possession of less than an ounce and small-scale growing will be legal with the verification of the vote, which could come before the end of the year.
In addition to states' rights and conserving federal resources, the representatives list "valuable information in an important national debate" as a reason to allow for the will of the voters in Colorado and Washington.
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The representatives write that they believe legalization to be wise policy for the country and that negative effects from the decisions of the two states are unlikely. The letter advocates for the chance to observe the policies in action.
The full text of the letter is as follows:
Dear Mr. President,
We urge you to respect the wishes of the voters of Colorado and Washington and refrain from federal prosecution of the inhabitants of those states who will be following their states' laws with regard to the use of marijuana.
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.
We believe that respecting the wishes of the electorates of Colorado and Washington and allowing responsible state authorities to carry out those wishes will provide valuable information in an important national debate. Our request does not mean any permanent waiver of the ability of the federal government to enforce national laws should there be negative consequences of these state decisions – which we do not believe are at all likely – and thus we have as a result of these two states' decisions a chance to observe in two states the effect of the policy that we continue to believe would be wise for the country as a whole. Those who disagree with us should welcome the opportunity to put their theories to a test.
Respect for the principles of democracy; respect for the states to make decisions on matters that primarily affect the residents of those states; the chance to conserve scarce federal financial resources – these we believe are many strong reasons for you to defer to the state decisions, and we believe that even those who do not share our view that personal liberty should dictate this result should have no objection to your acting on these principles in this case.
Rep. Ron Paul, Member of Congress
Rep. Barney Frank, Member of Congress