Rohrabacher Joins Democrats in Urging Softer Pot Penalties

Thursday, 13 Feb 2014 07:38 AM

By Elliot Jager

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Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California joined 17 Democratic colleagues in calling for a softening of federal penalties for marijuana use, The Hill reported.

The lawmakers wrote to President Barack Obama urging a policy change at the Justice Department on how marijuana laws are enforced at the federal level.

"We request that you instruct Attorney General Holder to delist or classify marijuana in a more appropriate way, at the very least eliminating it from Schedule I or II. Furthermore, one would hope that your administration officials publicly reflect your views on this matter," the letter says.

Obama is on record as saying pot smoking is a "vice" and "bad habit" that he himself engaged in when he was a young man, but that it is not any more dangerous than alcohol.

The attorney general has the authority to declassify drugs under the law.

Rohrabacher was the sole Republican to sign the letter. He told Time magazine last year that, "If it was a secret ballot, the majority of Republicans would have voted to legalize marijuana a long time ago."

Last year, Rohrabacher introduced a bill that would allow banks to accept funds related to pot sales in those states where the substance has been decriminalized.

Vice President Joe Biden told Time magazine that the administration has no plans to legalize marijuana.

"I think the idea of focusing significant resources on interdicting or convicting people for smoking marijuana is a waste of our resources," but that there was no change in policy on legalization.

While some GOP lawmakers at the state level support decriminalization, most Republicans, bucking the overall popular trend, continue to oppose legalization, polls show.

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