Coffman, DeGette take another crack at protecting Colorado’s legal marijuana from feds

Aurora Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) and Democrat Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Denver) are sponsors of a bill that would protect a state’s right to legalize marijuana while the federal government classifies it as a Schedule 1 drug. The “Respect States and Citizens’ Rights Act of 2017” bill is a rehash of a similar bill Coffman and DeGette sponsored in 2012 after Colorado voted to legalize marijuana.

AURORA | Two of Colorado’s congressional delegates from opposite sides of the aisle have teamed up on legislation to protect the state’s legalized marijuana industry.

Aurora Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Denver) are sponsors of a bill that would protect a state’s right to legalize marijuana while the federal government classifies it as a Schedule 1 drug. The “Respect States and Citizens’ Rights Act of 2017” bill is a rehash of a similar bill Coffman and DeGette sponsored in 2012 after Colorado voted to legalize marijuana.

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US Rep., Mike Coffman, speaks during a town hall meeting on Wednesday April 12, 2017 at Education Building 2 South in the CU Anschutz Campus. Coffman enacted strict rules for attendance and participation, but stayed an extra 45 minutes answering questions. Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel

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US Rep. D-Denver, Diana DeGette, left, and State Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, walk down East Colfax Avenue during the Marade on Monday, Jan. 18, 2016. Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel

“While I have opposed the legalization of marijuana, the people of Colorado voted for an initiative in 2012 that legalized marijuana and placed it in our state’s constitution,” Coffman said in a statement. “Since this is clearly not a matter of interstate commerce, I believe that the people of Colorado had every right, under the U.S. Constitution, to decide this issue for themselves, and as their representative in Congress, I have an obligation to respect the will of the people of Colorado.”  

DeGette said there was urgency for the bill’s passage given the combative stance on marijuana legalization from President Donald Trump’s administration. Currently, 26 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana in some form, whether be it for medical or recreational use.

“My colleagues and I, along with our constituents, spoke out frequently during the Obama administration to make clear we didn’t want the federal government denying money to our states or taking other punitive steps that would undermine the will of our citizens,” DeGette said in a statement. “Lately, we’ve had even more reason for these concerns, given Trump administration statements.

“This bill makes clear that we’re not going back to the days of raids on legal dispensaries, of folks living in fear that they’re not going to get the medical marijuana they need, or that they might get jailed for using it,” she added.

After legalization efforts in Colorado and Washington succeeded at the ballot, the Obama administration signaled it wouldn’t go to court to challenge the states’ decisions. But U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been a vocal opponent of legalization and has said he will not take a hands-off approach to federal drug laws.

“I realize this may be an unfashionable belief in a time of growing tolerance of drug use. But too many lives are at stake to worry about being fashionable. I reject the idea that America will be a better place if marijuana is sold in every corner store,” Sessions said in a March 15 speech to law enforcement officials. “Our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs will destroy your life.”