Lawmakers not stoked about protecting state’s pot laws

By   /   May 8, 2013  /   News  /   10 Comments

LEGALIZE POT: Demonstrators demand the legalization of cannabis as they walk in downtown Washington, D.C., on July 4, 2009. The rally took place in front of the White House.

LEGALIZE POT: Demonstrators demand the legalization of cannabis as they walk in downtown Washington, D.C., on July 4, 2009. The rally took place in front of the White House.


By Shelby Sebens | Northwest Watchdog

PORTLAND — A proposed law that would force the federal government to respect state marijuana laws is gaining bipartisan support, but U.S. representatives from Washington state aren’t so stoked.

It would be a lot cooler if they were, advocates say.

Just one out of 10 Washington reps have signed on as a co-sponsor to the Respect Marijuana Laws Act of 2013, despite 56 percent of Washingtonians voting in November to legalize marijuana for recreational use. The law would allow states to set medical and recreational marijuana policy without interference from the federal government, which still considers pot an illegal substance.

“I am deeply concerned about the conflicts between federal and state law,” U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, D-District 9, said in an email. Smith is the only congressman from Washington state to sign onto the bill, introduced April 12.

“While it is legal to possess and use a limited quantity of marijuana under state law, marijuana remains an illegal substance under federal statutes. This lack of clarity is unacceptable.”

It appears Smith is the only Washington lawmaker willing to back the legislation, at least now. A spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, R-District 7, said McDermott has supported similar initiatives, but his office couldn’t yet comment as to where he stands on the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act. McDermott’s district includes Seattle, where 76 percent of residents voted in favor of legalizing marijuana.

Bryan Thomas, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-District 2, said Thomas doesn’t, for the time being, plan to sign on as a co-sponsor. He wouldn’t say whether Larson would vote for it or not if it comes to a vote. The bill has 15 co-sponsors — 12 Democrats and three Republicans — and sits in the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations.

It might as well get comfortable, some say. Colorado voters also have approved legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

“That’s a very unlikely bill to come up,” Thomas said, referencing the Republican-led House. But the bill’s main sponsor is Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican from California.

So …

The “it’s not likely to pass” attitude is a frustrating for those who believe it’s an important initiative, and Washingtonians looking to get into the pot business would prefer to stop looking over their shoulders.

Bailey Hirschburg is a National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws representative from Thurston County. Hirschburg said he recently approached  a member of Congress — he would not name the lawmaker — about the issue. The lawmaker, however, has yet to dedicate a staff to review and study the issue.

Advocates fear political anxiety and a wait-and-see attitude from Washington lawmakers could ultimately kill the bill.

Kevin Oliver, executive director of the Washington chapter of NORML, said he’s not surprised by lawmakers’ reticence.

“We’re walking around here with the actual state that is the experiment. I think they’re looking at this very politically and they’re just not willing to throw the dice when it’s happening in this state, regardless of whether this bill happens or not.”

NORML and the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington State are calling on Washingtonians to contact their federal representatives and urge them to sign onto the Respect Marijuana Laws Act.

Oliver said it shouldn’t take new legislation to protect the will of the people, given that the U.S. Constitution already provides for states’ rights via the 10th Amendment..

“In one way it’s just a reiteration of the American way,” he said.

One fear, Oliver said, is that the legal marijuana shops could open for a couple of years before the feds swoop in and wipe  it all out.

Russ Belville, former outreach coordinator for NORML in Oregon and current executive director of, said passing the bill would show a respect for the will of the people. As it stands, should an area of the state disagree with the marijuana laws, people can use an “it’s not legal federally” excuse to shut them down.

“A minority can obstruct the will of the majority,” he said.

Contact Shelby Sebens at [email protected]

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Shelby formerly served as staff reporter for

  • Brian Kelly B Bizzle

    Those whom profit from our current prison for profit system will do and say anything to prevent marijuana legalization. They will also attempt to throw up as many obstacles, hurdles, and road blocks to marijuana legalization as they possibly can. These people have a vested interest in keeping marijuana illegal.

    Neither The Government nor Law Enforcement Officials should trying to FORCE their will and crooked sense morality upon us. If you don’t like marijuana, then by all means don’t use it. Leave the rest of us ALONE and allow us to make our own choices about this safe, non-toxic, and often times healing plant.

    Marijuana Legalization Nationwide is an inevitable reality that’s approaching MUCH SOONER than prohibitionists think and there is NOTHING they can do to stop it!

    Legalize Nationwide! Support Each and Every Marijuana Legalization Effort!

  • SteveSarich

    We have state legislators that are happy to throw medical patients under the bus, and medical cannabis polls at over 80%. Why should we be surprised that our congressional deligation is not willing to protect the rights of the voters in this state? It’s time we start replacing our “representative government” with candidates that are willing to actual represent the will of the voters of Washington. Let’s start with our congressional representatives….they could obviously care less what the voter of Washington want. I’m not sure who are the bigger idiots….the elected officials or the voters who keep re-electing them!

  • Riley

    It is Rick Larsen, not Rick Larson.

  • SteveSarich

    Mr. Oliver, Mr. Hirschburg and the rest of the NORML crowd that worked to pass I-502 really don’t have to worry about the Feds swooping in and shutting down the state cartel stores, the Liquor Control Board is going to screw this up so badly, the legislature will shut it down before the Feds get a shot at it.

    Next week they are scheduled to release their draft rules for growers, processors and retail stores. At that point you’ll see literally thousands of angry potential licensees weeping and wringing their hands over these draft regulations.

    The LCB will tax and over-regulate to the point where no one in their right mind will even want to apply for one of these licenses….and almost none of them will quailfy even if they want a license.

    Good luck finding all that cheap “legal” weed at the LCB pot stores…that will never become a reality, despite the fervent claims by NORML and Alison Holcolm.

    Now the legislature wants to turn medical over to these guy at the LCB? If your mom finds out she has cancer, do you really want to contact to be contacting the Liquor Control Board? There was a good reason the voters took the retail sales of liquor away from these guys. Think they going to do a better job with cannabis?

  • Shelby Sebens

    Thank you. That should be fixed now.

  • we have one candidate in the 509 way over by idaho who is running for sherriff. he promises to arrest any federale coming to harass lawful users in his jurisdiction. if every sheriff was that way….ah but they roll over as easily as chiefs of police, as easily as our westside party hacks who must put solidarity with the obama regime and party over serving and representing we the voters .

  • Marijuana is the safest drug with actual benefits for the user as opposed to alcohol which is dangerous, causes addiction, birth defects, and affects literally every organ in the body. Groups are organizing all over the country to speak their minds on reforming pot laws. I drew up a very cool poster featuring Uncle Willie Nelson and The Teapot Party for the cause which you can check out on my artist’s blog at Drop in and let me know what you think!

  • Judith Shea

    The lawmakers on both sides go for the money
    They all cheat. Both sides and I hate it. California, known for having some of the toughest DUI laws in the nation, it seems Bobby Brown has been let off easy. He was released Wednesday after serving nine hours of his 55-day jail sentence for driving under the influence.
    L.A. County sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore told the media that Brown was released early due to jail overcrowding and good behavior.
    Is that a joke? How does that happen? Could it happen for the average joe?

  • Lawmakers need to realize that their job is to represent the will of the voters. We need to pay attention to those that don’t for future reference. Then they can find something to get stoked about while seeking new jobs in the unemployment line.

  • Lets think about this. Does it strike anyone else as dumb that I-502 considers marijuana/cannabis “legal” in Washington state, even though Washington state law says it’s still an illegal schedule one drug?

    You must realize that the ACLU and NORML knew this all along.
    Cannabis is not only a schedule one drug on a federal level. But Washington state has it’s very own Controlled Substances Act and if you look it up, nothing has changed on Washington’s CSA. Marijuana/cannabis is STILL a schedule one drug.

    Meaning, that there are no state 10th Amendment rights to be fought for, when Washington is still violating its own laws concerning the Washington State CSA.

    Cannabis did not get legalized under I-502, and the specific wording about cooperation between WA and the FEDS makes it all the more clear that this shame job is not much different than the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act.
    Sure it just sounds like it’s an insanely high tax on a ‘legal’ substance. But if you look at it closer it’s an insanely high tax on an ILLEGAL substance.
    Smoke and mirrors people, that’s all I-502 is.