Last week, RepresentativeDiana DeGette announced the introduction of a bill
asking the federal government to respect themarijuana policies in Washington and Colorado
after voters in each state passed pot-law-reform acts, includingAmendment 64
. Since then, however, the list of legislators co-sponsoring the measure has grown, and among those signing on is Representative Ron Paul, arguably Congress' best-known opponent of the War on Drugs.
The co-sponsors of the so-called Respect States' and Citizens' Rights Act were originally listed as representatives Earl Blumenauer (Oregon), Steve Cohen (Tennessee) and Sam Farr (California), plus DeGette and two other reps from Colorado -- Jared Polis, a longtime advocate of drug-law reform (click to see his memorable joust with the DEA's Michele Leonhart) and Mike Coffman, a Republican who publicly opposed the passage of Amendment 64.
In a statement explaining why he supported DeGette's legislation, Coffman said, "I voted against Amendment 64, and I strongly oppose the legalization of marijuana, but I also have an obligation to respect the will of the voters given the passage of this initiative, and so I feel obligated to support this legislation."
Now, according to a source at DeGette's office, three more notables have joined the legislation as co-sponsors: representatives Barbara Lee (California), Barney Frank (Massachusetts) and Paul, a Texan whose run for the presidency in 2012 revved up an enormous cult following whose size and passion bedeviled ultimate Republican nominee Mitt Romney all the way to the GOP convention.
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Both Frank and Paul have had their names on proposals to legalize marijuana in the past. But Paul's participation, in particular, certainly raises the profile of DeGette's bill, since he has talked about the need to junk the current system long before it was fashionable. As evidence, cast an eye toward this 2007 interview with ABC's John Stossel.
Our source in DeGette's office, citing positive feedback from House staffers, expects more legislators to affix their name to the Respect States' and Citizens' Rights Act soon. If that comes to pass, the additional backing, coupled with Paul's undoubted ability to rally his legion of fans, should boost the bill's visibility. And during a period when the attention of lawmakers will be fixed on the looming fiscal cliff, it'll need all the help it can get in that respect.
Look below to read the act, as well as a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and the DEA's Michele Leonhart asking that the Justice Department allow Colorado and Washington voters to determine their own marijuana policy. The latter is signed by many of the bill's co-sponsors.
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More from our Politics archive: "Marijuana: Mike Coffman, Amendment 64 opponent, to back federal exemption bill."