WASHINGTON – Rep. Cory Gardner is one lawmaker who hasn’t mellowed out in the wake of an Obama administration decision to exempt Colorado adults from a federal law that bans the use and possession of marijuana, suggesting that the White House is picking and choosing which federal laws it enforces.
On Tuesday, the Yuma Republican sent a skeptically-worded letter to the U.S. Department of Justice about the administration’s announcement last Thursday that it will not enforce a key provision of the 1970 Controlled Substances Act.
Colorado voters approved Amendment 64, an initiative allowing for the regulated use of recreational marijuana by adults 21 and older, by a wide margin in November.
The voter-backed measure conflicts with a Nixon-era drug law that prevents individuals from using and possessing any amount of marijuana, a point Gardner highlighted in his letter.
“While I commend the DOJ for finally issuing guidance after nearly ten months since Colorado voters legalized marijuana’s recreation use, its new policies are in contrast to the Controlled Substances Act.” Gardner wrote. “Essentially, DOJ policy now allows states like Colorado to opt out of federal marijuana law,” Gardner wrote.
Gardner also suggested that the Obama administration’s decision to sidestep Congress in announcing the new policy may violate the Constitution.
“Do you believe the Department of Justice has the authority to override federal laws? Do you believe you have the authority to change law without the approval of Congress?” the lawmaker wrote.
The White House did not respond to an email about Gardner’s letter by press time.
Last week, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado implied that enforcing federal law to prevent Colorado adults from using and possessing limited amounts of marijuana is not a priority.
“The key federal interests set forth in that guidance are also key interests of the people of Colorado,” John Walsh wrote about Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision.
“Of particular concern to the U.S. Attorney’s Office are cases involved in trafficking directly or indirectly to children and young people; trafficking that involve violations or other federal criminal actions; trafficking conducted or financed by street gangs and drug cartels; cultivation of marijuana on Colorado’s extensive state and federal public lands; and trafficking across state and international lines,” Walsh added.
Gardner’s missive highlights what some critics see as the hypocrisy of the Obama administration allowing states to opt-out of federal drug laws, but not the far-reaching new federal health care law more commonly known as Obamacare.
“[S]everal states have passed laws to opt out of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, yet the federal government has consistently said it will take over health insurance industries regardless of states that contest the law,” Gardner wrote. “If you do not agree that there’s a precedent set, would you explain the inconsistencies of why in certain areas federal law may be deemed irrelevant, but not in others?”
Colorado voters approved the possession and use of medicinal marijuana in 2000, but sales of non-medical marijuana are not expected to begin in Colorado until January 2014.
Some twenty states have adopted measures legalizing marijuana for medical use. Voters in Colorado and Washington state have gone further, approving recreational cannabis use by adults 21 and over.