U.S. Representative Jared Polis

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New Congressional analysis upholds states' right to legalize marijuana

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Washington, April 23, 2013 | comments
Today, Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) shared a new legal analysis, prepared by the Congressional Research Service, the nonpartisan research agency supporting the United States Congress, which finds that the federal government cannot compel states to prohibit marijuana use within their borders.
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Today, Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) shared a new legal analysis, prepared by the Congressional Research Service, the nonpartisan research agency supporting the United States Congress, which finds that the federal government cannot compel states to prohibit marijuana use within their borders.

More specifically, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) writes that:

"Although the federal government may use its power of the purse to encourage states to adopt certain criminal laws, the federal government is limited in its ability to directly influence state policy by the Tenth Amendment, which prevents the federal government from directing states to enact specific legislation, or requiring state officials to enforce federal law. As such, the fact that the federal government has criminalized conduct does not mean that the state, in turn, must also criminalize or prosecute that same conduct."

Congressman Polis responded, stating, “I've long believed that Colorado, Washington and other states that have decriminalized or legalized marijuana for personal or medical use have acted within the legal bounds of the law.  I am pleased to see that Congress's research agency has interpreted the law the same way. With a majority of Americans now supporting marijuana legalization, and more states acknowledging every election cycle that the War on Drugs has failed, I hope that the Department of Justice will conduct and release a legal analysis that is as thorough as that done by CRS. If they do, they are sure to reach the same conclusion: it is perfectly legal for states to regulate marijuana as they see fit."

Thus far, 19 states and jurisdictions have decriminalized or legalized marijuana for personal or medical use. The full CRS report can be downloaded here.

"While H.R. 499, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, which I introduced earlier this year, remains important to establishing a structure to regulate marijuana like alcohol, this validation by the Congressional Research Service that the 10th amendment allows Colorado and Washington's laws to move forward is a welcome step."

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