In our ongoing effort to chart the attitudes and voting records of Michigan's elected officials, The Compassion Chronicles occasionally published letters sent by legislators to their constituents. This letter was sent to longtime cannabis advocate and former Executive Director of the Michigan chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Rev. Steven Thompson (no relation to author) from Dan Benishek, a physician who represents Michigan in the US House of Representatives.
In the letter Rep. Banishek states he supports the state medical marijuana program while expressing reservations about decriminalization of marijuana. Despite being "unconvinced" about decriminalization, the Representative had this refreshing take on states rights in relation to adult use of marijuana:
"In my judgment, the federal government is prohibited from interfering with state health and safety laws, which properly reflect the will of citizens of the various states. If citizens of a state vote to allow the recreational use of marijuana, I believe the federal government should respect this decision," Rep. Benishek wrote.
Rep. Benishek represents the 1st District in Michigan. That area includes the entire Upper Peninsula and most of the Lower Peninsula north of Kalkaska.
Mentioned in the letter is Rep. Benishek's co-sponsorship of HR 1523, the "Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2013″. That legislation would amend the federal Controlled Substances Act to exempt persons acting in compliance with state laws relating to the production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, or delivery of marijuana from federal penalty.
HR 1523 was introduced on April 12, 2013, by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R- CA) with 5 co-sponsors- including Michigan Representative Justin Amash (D- 3rd District). Within two weeks the bill picked up ten additional co-sponsors, and Rep. Benishek was among them. The bill currently has 23 co-sponsors, but only 5 Republicans have put their name on the bill.
Dear Rev.Steven B.:
Thank you for taking the time to communicate with me regarding the federal prohibition of marijuana. As your elected representative, I appreciate the opportunity to learn your views .
While I am in favor of allowing Americans to use marijuana for legitimate medical purposes without fear of criminal prosecution, I remain unconvinced that the full decriminalization of marijuana is good public policy. With that said, however, I am a firm supporter of the principle of federalism as written in the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: powers not granted to the federal government nor prohibited to the states by the Constitution are reserved, respectively, to the states or the people.
For this reason, I have decided to cosponsor H.R. 1523, the "Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2013″. This bill was introduced by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher on April 12, 2013, and prohibits the federal government from prosecuting those who are acting in accordance with their state's marijuana laws.
In my judgment, the federal government is prohibited from interfering with state health and safety laws, which properly reflect the will of citizens of the various states. If citizens of a state vote to allow the recreational use of marijuana, I believe the federal government should respect this decision.
The "Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2013″ has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary and the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Although I do not serve on either of these committees, should this measure come to the House floor for a vote, be assured I will keep your support in mind.Again, thank you for taking the time to share with me your opinion---I value hearing from you. Should you have any additional questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me or a member of my staff at 202-225-4735.
Dan Benishek M. D.
Member of Congress