GOP congressman pushes for medical marijuana

A conservative Republican is leading an effort to legalize medical marijuana.

Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) told the Loop Tuesday he surprised some colleagues when he told them he was the author of a new marijuana bill, but he hopes having a Republican at the helm will “make people take another look at it.”

It’s not a new position for Griffith, who staked this position as Majority Leader in the Virginia legislature, and even drafted legislation in 2010 that swiftly died in the House of Delegates.

Now as a member of Congress, Griffith has taken this libertarian view to a larger stage, introducing LUMMA, the Legitimate Use of Medicinal Marijuana Act. Griffith’s bill would ensure states could make their own decisions about medical marijuana usage without the federal government stepping in. His bill would also reclassify marijuana under the Justice Department’s controlled substances lists, so the drug wouldn’t be linked with harder drugs, such as heroin.

“I am saying if we can use [opioids], why the fear of using [marijuana] for legit medicinal purpose?” Griffith said.

Public support for medical marijuana use is overwhelming. A CNN/ORC poll in January found 88 percent of American adults supports legalizing the drug for medical reasons.

Griffith still thinks legalizing marijuana fully, so just anyone can go down to “Billy Bob’s marijuana shop,” is “irresponsible,” he said.

But there has also been a sea change in public opinion on legalizing marijuana for recreational use, as Colorado and Washington state did. A Pew Research Center study in February found 54 percent support making the drug legal, compared with 2010 when 41 percent supported marijuana legalization.

Colby Itkowitz is a national reporter for In The Loop.
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Colby Itkowitz | April 29