Conservatives Push Marijuana Reform in Congress

Pot activists have some surprising new allies

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher
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There's a new congressional push to end the federal War on Pot in the states – and it's being spearheaded by some of the most conservative members of the Republican conference.

The "Respect State Marijuana Laws Act" introduced in the House last week would immunize anyone acting legally under state marijuana laws from federal prosecution under the Controlled Substances Act. Depending on the state, the legislation would cover both medical marijuana and recreational pot, and would protect not only the users of state-legal cannabis, but also the businesses that cultivate, process, distribute and sell marijuana in these states.

The legislation is in keeping with poll data released last week from Pew Research that found that 60 percent of Americans believe the feds should allow states to self-regulate when it comes to marijuana. The same poll finds that 57 percent of Republicans also favor this approach, which may explain why this bill is attracting arch-conservative backers in the House.

The Next Seven States to Legalize Pot

The three GOP co-sponsors are:

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California, who is best known to liberals as a villainous climate denier for theorizing that global warming is the result of "dinosaur flatulence."

Rep. Don Young of Alaska, the mastermind of the infamous Bridge to Nowhere, who was most recently in the news for recalling the "wetbacks" his father employed on the family farm.

And Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, who was recently "purged" from the Republican House Budget Committee – allegedly for being too conservative – and who has repeatedly voted against toughening penalties for human trafficking.

These hardcore Republicans are joined in a ganja Gang of Six by liberal pro-pot stalwarts Reps. Jared Polis of Colorado, Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and Steve Cohen of Tennessee.

Speaking for the group, Republican Rep. Rohrabacher said the bipartisan bill "establishes federal government respect for all states' marijuana laws" by "keeping the federal government out of the business of criminalizing marijuana activities in states that don't want it to be criminal."

Steve Fox, national political director of the Marijuana Policy Project, hailed the effort to bend federal marijuana law to the will of the governed. "Marijuana prohibition is on its last legs because most Americans no longer support it," said Fox, adding that the new legislation offers the states'-rights crowd in the House with a chance to vote their principles: "This legislation presents a perfect opportunity for members to embrace the notion that states should be able to devise systems for regulating marijuana without their citizens having to worry about breaking federal law."