Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has thrown his support behind legislation that Republicans could use to force President Barack Obama to crack down on legal marijuana in states like Colorado and Washington.
Speaking to Fox News on Thursday, the libertarian-leaning senator said he supported the Enforce the Law Act, which has been approved by the House. The legislation would allow Congress to sue the president for failing to faithfully execute laws.
Paul said that Obama appeared to be “writing his own laws whenever he feels like it.”
“He also does need to enforce the law. We write laws and he is just deciding willy-nilly if he likes it he enforces it, if he doesn’t, he won’t enforce it, and we really think he needs to be chastened, rebuked, and told that he needs to obey the constitution,” he added.
Republicans have championed the bill as a way to make President Barack Obama enforce immigration and health care laws, and prevent the executive branch from overstretching its regulatory authority.
But a committee report submitted by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), one of the three congressmen who introduced the bill, suggested Republicans would also use the proposed law to try to force Obama to crack down on marijuana in states that have legalized its possession and sale.
The report stated that Obama was not faithfully executing federal law by allowing states to legalize marijuana for recreational and medical use. The federal Controlled Substances Act lists marijuana as a Schedule I substance, the most prohibited classification, which is reserved for dangerous drugs with no medical value.
Not enforcing federal drug laws in states that have legalized marijuana “infringes on Congress’s lawmaking authority,” the report said.
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), who introduced the bill with Goodlatte, has criticized Obama for “dispensing” with federal laws related to immigration, marijuana, and mandatory minimum sentences.
An official statement for the bill said “failing to enforce federal drug laws in states that permit medical and recreational marijuana use and the announcement that the Justice Department will stop prosecuting low-level drug offenders under mandatory minimum sentencing laws” were both examples of Obama’s executive overreach.
Paul, who is typically considered an ally of drug reform advocates, did not discuss the legislation’s potential effects on states’ marijuana laws during his Fox News interview. He has previously said he supports states’ rights to legalize marijuana, and that people shouldn’t be imprisoned merely for smoking marijuana.
Obama has said he will veto the bill if it comes to his desk, but the legislation is unlikely to survive the Democratic-led Senate.
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[Note: Updated for clarity, and with additional information]