Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) has invited President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to join him on a marijuana tour in Colorado, following the rollout of the state's new law legalizing the sale of recreational pot.
“I invited the president and Majority Leader Reid to visit Colorado to demonstrate to them that their recent comments softening their positions on marijuana are on the right track," Polis said to The Huffington Post. "The war on marijuana has failed, and I am confident that if they can see, firsthand, how new regulations can reduce crime, help fund education and keep drugs out of the hands of children, they will recognize that lifting the federal marijuana prohibition is the right thing to do.”
Although marijuana remains illegal under federal law, Attorney General Eric Holder announced in August that the U.S. Department of Justice would not interfere, at least at first, with Colorado's and Washington state's new marijuana laws -- a dramatic policy shift following the federal government's decades-long federal war on marijuana.
Popular support for the drug also appears to be on the rise. Recent polls have shown that a majority of Americans support both the legalization of marijuana for medical use and for recreational use. There's early speculation that marijuana could become a wedge issue in the 2016 presidential election.
Recreational marijuana legalization passed 55 percent to 45 percent in Colorado in 2012, but it wasn't until New Years Day that the first retail sales began. Twenty states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana use already and more than a dozen more could legalize weed for recreational use in the coming years.
"Elected officials who are making decisions about marijuana laws better have an understanding of marijuana and how those laws work," said Mason Tvert, communications director of Marijuana Policy Project, to HuffPost. "All too often, we see legislators decrying systems of regulated marijuana cultivation and sales without ever having seen such a system."
In a letter drafted Thursday, Polis offers to take Obama and Reid to see a legal dispensary and a grow operation. "I am confident that when you see Colorado’s work to implement the law while protecting children and raising revenue for our schools firsthand, we can begin to make similar efforts on a federal level," Polis wrote.
Michael Elliott, executive director of the Medical Marijuana Industry Group, agreed with Polis, noting that Colorado has developed more than 500 pages of marijuana laws and regulations.
"Our regulations are complete with mandatory background checks for owners and employees, background investigations and disclosures for the financing of the businesses, new packaging, labeling and testing standards, and a new seed-to-sale tracking program complete with RFID [tracking ID] tags," Elliott said.
Here's the full text of Polis' letter to Obama and Reid, provided by office:
Dear President Obama and Majority Leader Reid:
I am writing to thank you both for your recent comments regarding your shifting positions on the regulation and legalization of marijuana. It is vital that our nation’s leaders recognize that marijuana’s placement on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act has cost taxpayers millions of dollars and has classified countless people as criminals simply for using or being in possession of a substance that, as you noted, Mr. President, is less dangerous than alcohol “in terms of its individual impact on consumers.”
As you both know, the state of Colorado began the regulated and legal sale of marijuana on January 1st, 2014, following the approval of Amendment 64 by the voters in the 2012 election. By regulating marijuana in the same way we do alcohol, Colorado has an opportunity to reduce crime and to help keep marijuana out of the hands of children. Mr. President, I appreciate your acknowledgement that often times, minorities and populations with lower incomes are disproportionately affected by the criminalization of marijuana.
Majority Leader Reid, I was also encouraged by your assessment that, “We waste a lot of time and law enforcement,” going after marijuana users. Since the law has been implemented in Colorado, we have been fortunate to see the number of cases filed in regards to marijuana offenses plummet by 77 percent. I was also pleased to read the Majority Leader’s comments regarding how individuals who are suffering from an illness can often benefit from the relief provided by marijuana. For many, access to marijuana is the difference between being able to be treated for a life threatening illness or suffer even greater discomfort. As we strive to continue bringing our citizens the best health care in the world, we must be cognizant of the potential benefits that medicinal marijuana provides, and work to end the federal classification of marijuana, that according to U.S. Code has “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.”.
I also agree with the assessment that legalization of marijuana is not necessarily a one-size-fits-all solution to the most pressing social problems of the day, and that it is a vice with potential negative health effects. We must be diligent in continuing to expand educational opportunities for children, discouraging the abuse of drugs and alcohol, keeping drivers under the influence of alcohol or marijuana off the roads, and increasing awareness of the dangers associated with their use.
It is with this in mind that I would like to extend an invitation to both of you to visit Colorado and join me to visit a legal dispensary and grow operation to see how the law is being implemented in the state. I am confident that when you see Colorado’s work to implement the law while protecting children and raising revenue for our schools firsthand, we can begin to make similar efforts on a federal level.
Thank you for your consideration of my letter and I look forward to your response.
Member of Congress