The Washington Times - April 18, 2013, 02:12PM

A House lawmaker has introduced a bill to create a panel to referee the legal clash between federal and state laws over marijuana.

Officials in states that have approved pot for medicinal or recreational purposes have expressed growing frustration with the Obama administration’s Justice Department, which so far has failed to clarify its approach, given federal laws that criminalize marijuana use.


Rep. Steve Cohen, Tennessee Democrat, said the commission would create a “sensible policy” to address the conflict between state and federal laws, review possible revenue of marijuana taxation, and weigh the potential health benefits and risks associated with legalizing marijuana.

“Regardless of your views on marijuana, it’s important that we understand the impact of current federal policy and address the conflict with those state laws that allow for medicinal or personal use of marijuana,” Mr. Cohen said. “This conflict is only going to continue to grow over the next few years, and we must provide certainty to the millions of individuals and businesses that remain caught in a web of incompatible laws.”

The same day the bill was introduced, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. told a House hearing that the Justice Department is still reviewing state policies in Colorado and Washington and deciding how the department will respond.

Mr. Holden also made it very clear he is against legalization and his department will consider marijuana’s impact on children when deciding how it will react.

The Cohen bill comes on the heels of a bipartisan bill to immunize marijuana users from federal prosecution in states in which use is now legal. The immunity would extend to businesses that grow, distribute and sell marijuana in those states.

In addition to Mr. Cohen, the bill’s sponsors included Republican Reps. Dana Rohrabacher of California, Don Young of Alaska and Justin Amash of Michigan.

Mr. Cohen’s bill would create a 13-member commission with five representatives appointed by the president and the rest appointed by the leaders of the House and Senate.

The issue of legalizing marijuana currently holds public support for the first time in history, according to a recent Pew Research survey showing that 60 percent of Americans believe the federal government should not enforce anti-marijuana policies in states in which it has been legalized. Some 52 percent now say marijuana should be legalized nationally, according to the poll.

In December, President Obama said the federal government would not prosecute marijuana consumers in the District of Columbia or 18 states that also allow patients with certain conditions to obtain prescriptions for medical marijuana. Officials in Colorado and Washington state also complain of deep uncertainty on policy following votes in both states in November to allow adults over the age of 21 to use marijuana recreationally.