ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Alaska's Rep. Don Young has signed on to a bill in Congress that would protect marijuana users from federal prosecution in states where it is legal, saying that the states should be left to decide whether to legalize marijuana or not, and the federal government should stay out of it.
"It's a states' rights issue, period," Young said on Monday.
H.R. 1523, Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2013, would protect marijuana businesses and individual users from federal prosecution, as long as they are acting under compliance with state laws. Young is one of 15 bipartisan co-sponsors of the bill introduced by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), who called the bill "a common-sense approach" to state marijuana laws in a press release.
Young said he has never used marijuana. "I've been around it because some people who are dear to me used it," Young said. But he has personally steered clear of the drug.
"I never inhaled," Young said, referencing former president Bill Clinton's infamous 1992 statement on whether he had ever gotten high.
H.R. 1523 appears in Congress at a time when marijuana is seeing increased support nationally, and as a petition seeking to legalize the drug sits in Alaska's Lt. Governor's office, awaiting approval before supporters can take the petition to the streets. Alaska's initiative would make marijuana legal for people 21 and older, and would tax and regulate the drug. If it is approved by the Lt. Governor, supporters will have one year to collect the necessary signatures. The legislature would then review the petition, and if successful it would appear on the ballot in either August 2014 or August 2016, depending on when supporters file the petition.
The last time a marijuana petition made it on the ballot was in 2004, but that measure, which included amnesty and reparations for past marijuana offenses, failed at the polls, garnering ...