Legislation approved by House Republicans would seek to force President Barack Obama to crack down on marijuana in states that have made the drug legal for medical or recreational use.
The House passed the Enforce the Law Act by a vote of 233-181 on Wednesday. The bill was introduced by Reps. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Jim Gerlach (R-PA) to allow Congress to sue the president for failing to faithfully execute laws.
“The Constitution gives Congress the responsibility to write the laws and the Executive to enforce them,” Gowdy said Wednesday in a statement. “We don’t pass suggestions. We don’t pass ideas. We pass laws. Regardless of our politics, I hope my colleagues have enough regard for our work to expect those laws would be faithfully executed.”
A committee report submitted by Goodlatte cited the Obama administration’s decision to not intervene with marijuana legalization efforts in various states as an example of executive overreach.
Colorado and Washington both legalized the recreational use of marijuana through statewide voter referendums in 2012. In addition, 20 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana. Federal law, however, still considers the possession and sale of marijuana to be a crime.
Attorney General Eric Holder announced last year that the Department of Justice would not challenge states’ marijuana legalization laws as long as they maintained an “appropriately strict regulatory system.”
The decision not to enforce federal drug laws “in entire states is not a valid exercise of prosecutorial discretion,” the Republican’s report stated.
“Rather, the guidance to U.S. Attorneys establishes a formal, department-wide policy of selective non-enforcement of an Act of Congress. This infringes on Congress’s lawmaking authority by, in effect, amending the flat prohibitions of the [Controlled Substances Act] to permit the possession, distribution, and cultivation of marijuana so long as that conduct is in compliance with state law. This crosses the line between permissible discretionary decisions made by prosecutors on a case-by-case basis and an impermissible suspension of the law by executive fiat,” the report added.
The report also cited numerous decisions by the Obama administration regarding immigration and the Affordable Care Act as examples of executive overreach.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said in a statement that the bill would be “dead on arrival” and Obama has threatened to veto it “because it violates the separation of powers.”