FEDERAL MARIJUANA POLICY; Congressional Record Vol. 163, No. 21
(House of Representatives - February 07, 2017)

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[Pages H1075-H1078]
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                        FEDERAL MARIJUANA POLICY

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under the Speaker's announced policy of 
January 3, 2017, the Chair recognizes the gentleman from California 
(Mr. Rohrabacher) for 30 minutes.
  Mr. ROHRABACHER. Mr. Speaker, I rise tonight to ask my colleagues to 
join me in the legislation that I have submitted today, which is the 
Respect State Marijuana Laws Act.
  For too long, Washington's decisionmakers have pursued the same 
policies over a whole range of issues without regard for whether those 
policies are actually beneficial to the American people. In fact, they 
continue to support policies that have utterly failed--many of these 
things--because the intent sounds so good.
  So, over and over again, we see failed policies remain in place, 
wasting money. Rather than evaluating the reason for the policy 
failures and ultimately deciding to change course in Washington, the 
habit has been simply doubling down on regulations, personnel, and tax 
dollars spent, believing that that will have and bring a different 
outcome.
  Last November, the American people registered their dissatisfaction 
with this way of thinking by electing Donald Trump to the Presidency.
  President Trump's statements on the campaign trail loudly and 
aggressively challenged the status quo. We haven't had someone here 
shaking up the status quo for a long time, but he did so by promising 
to revisit a whole host of failed Federal policies that have been 
crying out for attention for years and, in some cases, decades.
  Once such failed policy has been the U.S. Government spending 
billions of dollars and wasting the time of Federal employees--hundreds 
of thousands, if not maybe tens of thousands of Federal employees--in 
order to prevent adults from smoking a weed, marijuana.
  Candidate Trump told the voters this was an issue to be left up to 
the States, especially when it comes to medical marijuana.
  At a 2015 rally in Sparks, Nevada, then-Candidate Trump said:
  ``Marijuana is such a big thing. I think medical should happen--
right? Don't we agree? I think so. And then I really believe we should 
leave it up to the states.''
  It should be a State situation, I think.
  ``In terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a 
state issue, state-by-state.''
  I could not agree more with the President. Indeed, it is the very 
approach that I have advocated for several years.
  In this vein, I have reintroduced today, as I said, the Respect State 
Marijuana Laws Act earlier today, along with Republican colleagues Tom 
McClintock, Ted Yoho, Don Young, Duncan Hunter, Justin Amash, and Tom 
Massie, as well as Democratic colleagues Steve Cohen, Mark Pocan, Earl 
Blumenauer, Dina Titus, Jared Polis, and Barbara Lee.
  My bill, which has not received a designation yet but is entitled the 
``Respect State Marijuana Laws Act,'' will permit residents to 
participate within the confines of a State's medical and recreational 
marijuana program without running afoul of Federal law.
  Admittedly, my personal preference would be to lift the Federal 
Government's prohibition on marijuana entirely. However, I understand 
that this approach would be a nonstarter for many of my colleagues, 
which is why I have promoted an approach that simply gives the States 
and their residents the room they need to take a different approach to 
this issue, should they choose to take that different approach.
  Under my proposal, if a resident or business acts outside the 
boundaries set by a particular State, or if a State has chosen not to 
allow medical or recreational use of marijuana by their residents, the 
Federal Government would still be empowered to enforce Federal law in 
those instances. If that is what the people of the State want--it to be 
legal--the Federal Government can still get involved.
  Of course, the number of States that have resisted the shift in 
national opinion on this issue is small. To date, 44 States, including 
D.C., Guam, and Puerto Rico, have enacted laws that allow, to a varying 
degree, the cultivation, sale, and use of marijuana for medical or 
recreational purposes. For those States and territories that have 
discarded strict marijuana prohibition, my bill would align Federal 
policy accordingly.

                              {time}  2000

  This is to those States and the people of those States who have 
decided they don't want the marijuana prohibition. My bill would then 
make sure that Federal law is aligned with the States' and the people 
in those States' desires so that the residents and businesses wouldn't 
have to worry about Federal prosecution. For those few States that have 
thus far maintained a policy of strict prohibition, my bill would 
change nothing. I think that this is a reasonable compromise that 
places the primary responsibility of police powers back in the States 
and the local communities that are most directly affected.
  Over the past few years, the disparity between State and Federal 
marijuana policies has confused and stifled banking, proper taxation, 
research, natural resources development, law enforcement, and related 
activities. A plethora of bills, many of which I have happily 
cosponsored, have been introduced in the House to tackle these problems 
on an issue-by-issue basis. However, my bill is the only one that would 
solve all these problems in one fell swoop.
  My bill is short, straightforward, and easy to understand. It amends 
the Controlled Substances Act to add a new rule that reads as follows: 
``Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the provisions of this 
subchapter related to marijuana shall not apply to any person acting in 
compliance with State laws relating to the production, possession, 
distribution, dispensation, or administration or delivery of 
marijuana.''
  The major difficulties that landlords, dispensaries, banks, and 
others find themselves in in those States where the majority of 
people--maybe the vast majority of people--have voted to make marijuana 
legal in their borders stems from the fact that the Federal Government 
law considers that activity still illegal. By explicitly stating that 
as long as these folks are following the State law, their actions are, 
by definition, not illegal to the Federal Government, if we do that, 
many of these obstacles, many of these confusions that people have to 
deal with in those States, in the States where people have voted to 
make sure they don't want marijuana illegal, well, their problems and 
the complications, the banking rules and everything else would be 
solved immediately.

[[Page H1076]]

  Now that we have established President Trump's policy preference as 
it relates to this issue, which is he believes it should be left up to 
the States, as well as my legislative proposal, let us turn to the 
reasons why Federal policy ought to change.
  First, as a matter of philosophy, I, as a constitutional 
conservative, have great faith in the ideals articulated by our 
Founding Fathers. Their experience with the British monarchy, an all-
powerful, centralized British Government in which people had little 
representation and no right to control their own lives and liberty, led 
them to establish--meaning, led our Founding Fathers to establish--a 
decentralized system of government, totally different from that of the 
British, that their government was meant to protect the freedoms of the 
citizenry.
  One of the most important tenets of this system of government was the 
idea that nearly all police power should be reserved to and exercised 
by the State and local governments. Yet today, Congress continues to 
fund an enormous Federal bureaucracy that is built around the idea that 
we--meaning, the Federal Government--can and should regulate what 
people may or may not choose to consume and has justified the Federal 
Government's establishing a Federal police force and justified Federal 
police actions directly on the citizens throughout our country.
  This is totally contrary to what our Founding Fathers meant. There 
was never an intent to have criminal law being taken care of by the 
Federal Government. All of our Founding Fathers would have opposed it 
and today would be supporting my legislation by bringing things back to 
the ideals which they had in mind of limited government, especially 
limiting the Federal Government's control directly over our lives.
  Tragically, these laws, the laws which have been implemented and the 
laws that have been encouraged by the Federal Government, these laws 
concerning marijuana, disproportionately impact on the poorest 
communities in our country. There is an incorrect perception that poor 
people, particularly people of color, disproportionately break Federal 
marijuana laws, leading to their disproportionate representation in 
Federal prisons. However, as I indicated, that is an incorrect 
perception.
  Statistics show that affluent citizens are just as likely to grow, 
sell, and use marijuana illegally as poor citizens. The sad difference 
between these two, however, is that the poorest among us are somehow 
unable to avoid prison time for similar offenses.
  There is much that can be said about why this is. Some may respond to 
this unfairness with the idea that we should just lock up more of the 
affluent young people and older people as frequently as we lock up 
their poor counterparts.
  Well, I happen to believe that the Federal Government shouldn't be 
locking up anyone for making a decision of what he or she should 
privately consume, whether that person is rich or poor, and we should 
never be giving people the excuse, especially Federal authorities, that 
they have a right to stop people or intrude into their lives in order 
to prevent them and prevent others from smoking a weed, consuming 
something they personally want to consume.
  We have been down this path before, of course. In the 1920s, a 
coalition of progressives and evangelical Christians thought it would 
be a good idea to institute a national prohibition on alcohol, which 
was something else that people can do in excess--and do in excess--
which hurts them when they do it in excess or when they do it when they 
are not totally in control, and they hurt their lives.
  People do hurt their lives on alcohol, no doubt about it, just like 
in all these other drugs and just as some people do on sugar, for 
example. But the motives of the movement, no matter how well intended, 
indeed, certainly they wanted to help the people that they were going 
to stop from drinking. But like most efforts to limit freedom, the 
freedom of Americans, they ultimately succeeded in convincing--they did 
convince--the country to enact an amendment to the Constitution that 
actually prohibited the production and sale of alcohol in the United 
States.

  What happened? Well, predictably, the policy failed at achieving its 
intended goal, which is trying to prevent people from consuming a 
liquid intoxicant, alcohol; and instead of just achieving that goal, 
instead it resulted in a torrent of collateral damage that harmed 
everybody in this country and created problems that we still have 
today. The rise of organized crime, the death of people consuming booze 
that was contaminated or otherwise deadly, that is what was going on 
during Prohibition.
  The mobster scene first arrived in America. We had organized crime. 
We had people who were consuming alcohol from stills, and they had no 
idea what company or what people were making this stuff that they were 
consuming. They ended up dying in great numbers, and we ended up with 
the Mob.
  Does that sound familiar?
  Fortunately, for future generations, the country wised up and 
repealed the Prohibition amendment just about a decade after it was put 
into place.
  Today, the scourge of marijuana prohibition has fueled organized 
crime here and south of our border and in our inner cities and 
throughout the world. We now have organized crime on steroids, and 
there is little that we can do to stop that because we keep feeding 
them with money by having outlawed drugs that people want to consume, 
and especially that drug that we are looking at tonight, which is 
marijuana.
  Yet despite the well-documented death and destruction permeated by 
organized crime, the two groups who are most tragically harmed by the 
Federal Government's intransigence--it is not necessarily the groups 
that they are trying to save, but, in reality, they are trying to save 
these people. They are putting them in jail. They are destroying 
people's lives in that way, but they are also victimizing American 
seniors and our veterans--yes, our veterans.
  The Federal Government remains so fixated on the need to restrict 
marijuana use that it has effectively promoted an opioid addiction. The 
possibility that marijuana might be a viable alternative to the 
management of pain and certain chronic disorders has been ignored and, 
yes, suppressed. Thus, we have senior citizens who are in their senior 
citizens homes, people over 70 and 80 years old, and they are being 
prohibited from using marijuana that might make their day a little bit 
easier or might bring back their appetite. Marijuana is now, instead, 
designated as a schedule I substance and has prevented any meaningful 
use that might be, as I say, for our senior citizens.
  It has also prevented a robust research of the drug to find out 
exactly what it could be used for in a positive way. Last year, to the 
credit of the Obama administration, at the insistence of myself and 
others here in Congress, the Drug Enforcement Administration announced 
a policy change to expand the number of DEA-registered marijuana 
manufacturers. That meant that they were able to expand that number.
  Historically, only the University of Mississippi had been registered 
with the DEA to produce marijuana for research purposes. Well, what we 
have had in the past has limited the research supply of marijuana both 
in quantity and in quality, making access particularly difficult to 
legitimate scientists and practitioners. Thus, we have made it very 
difficult, if not impossible, for us to get a full understanding: If 
there are dangers, what are they? If there are some potential positive 
uses of marijuana, what are they?
  Through the policy that we have had, it has been a negative impact on 
those people who are suffering who, needlessly, don't need to suffer. 
They do not need to suffer, whether they are our veterans coming home 
or whether it is our people who are basically older or are suffering 
from other types of diseases. The policy change that we have made is a 
positive step in the right direction so that now there can be more 
research into marijuana to find out what the dangers are and what the 
benefits can be.
  We now can expect that research to pick up to some degree, although 
barriers remain. It is unfortunate that barriers remain because a 
plethora of anecdotal evidence suggests that this plant and its 
constituent parts may offer relief from ailments such as post-traumatic 
stress disorder, cancer, chronic pain, epilepsy, glaucoma, and multiple 
sclerosis; and, yes, we know

[[Page H1077]]

that in some cases they have noted childhood problems where people go 
into seizures, and it has been effective in that.
  Why have we held marijuana back and not researched it even?
  This paranoia has had severe negative consequences on the American 
people, and that is not even considering the number of people whose 
lives have been affected. You arrest some person who doesn't have the 
money for a lawyer and they can't get it expunged from their record, 
for the rest of their lives they have lower pay and they have trouble 
getting jobs. We have trapped people in our poorer areas because we 
have put this stigma on them when what we are talking about is the 
consumption of a weed--not hurting somebody else, the personal 
consumption.
  I can't think of anything that our Founding Fathers thought that some 
people have a right to control their lives, especially what they 
consume. I, of course, don't agree that we should outlaw cups bigger 
than this because some people might drink more soda pop if we have 
bigger cups, no. People need to be responsible for their own lives. 
That is what freedom is all about, and that is when people will start 
being more careful about what they do.

                              {time}  2015

  Yes, we also know that marijuana can adversely affect the mental 
development of an adolescent brain. As such, it is vitally important to 
discourage our youth from chronic use. Right now the youth won't even 
believe what we are talking about half the time when it comes to 
marijuana. So now we need to establish our credibility that we are not 
being paranoid, we are being responsible, and we are being realistic. 
We need to discuss with our young people and discourage the chronic 
consumption of marijuana, just like we do when we discourage them from 
the chronic consumption of alcohol use, which also is bad for young 
people's brains.
  But the fact is we do not know more, and we need to know more, about 
the use of medical marijuana and the use of marijuana, period--both 
positive impacts and negative impacts. The fact that we don't know what 
it can be used for positively or what the negative impact is because we 
haven't done the research, that is a travesty. That is a travesty.
  It is a crime against older people who sit there and are being denied 
the use of something when they are over 70 or 80 years old that might 
enlighten their day and might bring back their appetite after they have 
had some sickness.
  It is a travesty when our veterans come home and they are given 
opiates instead of maybe something they can derive from marijuana. We 
need to research that. And our veterans end up killing themselves 
because now they are addicted to an opiate. The Federal Government 
should not stand in the way of the scientific community in learning 
more about marijuana.
  Many who oppose the change in course for Federal marijuana policy 
will cite any number of excuses: Oh, but it is dangerous if people use 
marijuana and then get behind the wheel of a car.
  Well, that is something that needs to be worked out. We need to make 
sure that we understand there are other challenges we have to face once 
marijuana is legal and how we are going to protect people from being in 
a situation. Well, I happen to believe that there will be no more 
people smoking marijuana and driving a car if it was legal than they 
are today. However, that may be an issue we need to look at.
  What we need to do is find ways to discourage young people from 
driving while drinking. Let's have drug testing in our schools not 
aimed at putting young people in jail, not aimed at saying: Oh, you 
have tested positive for marijuana, you are going to get arrested. By 
the way, you can't do that because you can't force these kids to 
testify against themselves by giving them a blood sample or a drug 
test. But you can do it in order to say: If you test positive for 
drugs, we are going to talk to your parents about it. If you test 
positive for drugs and you are in school, you are going to have to take 
a class to show you what you are doing to your brain.
  Ultimately, this is all about freedom. It is all about whether 
adults, not children, can use their decisionmaking process. This is the 
land of the free and the home of the brave. Too many people get so 
wrapped up in micromanaging our lives for our own benefit--of course, 
it is always for our own benefit--that sometimes they end up causing 
great harm to the people that they want to control for their own 
benefit.
  Well, many of my Republican colleagues have joined me in letting the 
States do this. That is right. I understand it. I respect them. I hope 
more will go along with the constitutional provision that those things 
not enumerated in the Constitution are powers that should be granted to 
the States.
  I hope that my Republican colleagues will join me in recognizing 
that, when we talk about individual freedom, this is what individual 
freedom is. It also includes individual responsibility on the other 
side of the coin. When we talk about limited government, we want 
limited government and we want government that is closest to the 
people, the State marijuana laws in the name of helping people. So that 
they won't consume a weed by their own choice, we are destroying all of 
those principles which we claimed as Republicans.
  I believe in those principles. I think my fellow Republicans do as 
well. That is why we need to talk about it and have this type of 
discussion that I am opening up tonight on the floor of the House. In 
fact, if someone says they believe in the Tenth Amendment to the 
Constitution--we have heard it, and we will hear it in this body over 
and over again--let's send that back to the States. That is supposed to 
be a State rule of who is going to control the environment, who is 
going to control the gun laws or marriage laws, et cetera. We are going 
to hear that. But if someone really believes in the Tenth Amendment, 
they will respect the State marijuana laws, and let the States decide, 
and the people therein decide, what the laws should be.
  Remember, as we discuss people's health care, Republicans over and 
over again say: You shouldn't get in between a doctor and his patient. 
We believe in the doctor-patient relationship. That is true for medical 
marijuana as well.
  Do we believe in these principles?
  I say the Republican Party does believe in those principles. We need 
to have a discussion and we need to make sure that the American people 
understand that we are not just down here saying that we can control 
their life when we think it is best. No. We are down here because we do 
believe in liberty, we do believe in freedom, we do believe what our 
Founding Fathers had in mind when they decided not to follow the 
dictates of the king, not to permit the British government to establish 
control over their lives here in the United States that they had in 
Great Britain where they had fled from to get away from that type of 
authority. We do not want to have Federal police--no matter what they 
call them, DEA or anything else--down in our cities and our towns 
conducting law enforcement operations.
  That is not what our Founding Fathers had in mind. They had in mind 
also that people would be responsible for themselves. Yes, when people 
are free, some of them are going to make wrong decisions in their 
lives. We need to make sure that we understand that when we legalize 
medical marijuana, or even recreational use of marijuana, some people 
will hurt themselves, just like with alcohol.

  It is up to us not to try to put them in jail, not to try to hurt 
them, not to try to force them to do what we want, but to try to reach 
out to them, to help people who are in need, help people make the right 
decision in our churches and our schools. This is the way to conduct 
when you have a problem that threatens to bring down the society, not 
establishing a Federal Gestapo to go and enforce laws that are going to 
make everybody just prim and proper. I am sorry. What we need is to 
reassert what our Founding Fathers had in mind for America: limited 
government, personal responsibility, individual freedom, and, yes, the 
Tenth Amendment.
  I would ask my Republican colleagues to join me in supporting the 
Respect State Marijuana Laws Act. It presents us with a unique 
opportunity to support legislation that responds to

[[Page H1078]]

our constituent demands because across America, people are 
understanding the reality of this. They don't want to put people in 
jail, they don't want to have Federal law strike forces in their 
community just to prevent adults from consuming a weed in their 
backyard. It makes no sense at all. They know that people, once they 
are arrested for just smoking a weed that is not hurting anybody else, 
their lives are damaged and it is harder for them to become a decent 
citizen. Americans are concerned about each other, and we know we can't 
just leave it up to the government to control our lives.
  With that said, I hope that my colleagues support this legislation 
and support Congressman Blumenauer and myself and others in the 
Cannabis Caucus that is being established in order to be consistent 
with the goals and ideals of American liberty to make sure that we have 
limited government and unlimited freedom in this country. That is what 
America was supposed to be all about.
  Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.

                          ____________________