Yesterday House Democrats introduced the Respect States' and Citizens' Rights Act of 2012, which would resolve the conflict between the federal government and states with their own marijuana laws. As of right now, the bill faces two hurdles: A lack of Republican co-sponsors, and Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the new chair of the House Judiciary committee.
Goodlatte, who's been in the House since 1992, is notorious in the tech community for having co-authored and co-sponsored the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, with former Judiciary chair Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas). Now that Smith will be chairing the Science, Space, and Technology Committee, drug reformers will have to get their legislation past Goodlatte. Based on Goodlatte's record on marijuana issues, that's probably going to be tough.
As recently as January 2012, Goodlatte was responding to pro-pot constituents from the Roanoke area with this form letter (emphasis mine):
As you know, marijuana has been used in societies for thousands of years. Scientists over the years have learned much about the plant, including the usage of hemp for fiber and oil for cooking. However, scientists have also learned that the drug itself, when smoked, creates serious behavioral and psychological health risks. Studies have proven that the mind-altering effects of marijuana use have led to increased crime rates and an inability to function in society.
The medical benefits of the drug are inconclusive at best. The most recent study by the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine concluded in 1999 that plant material marijuana has no currently accepted medical use. In fact, there has been some evidence that use of marijuana may lead to the use of other harmful and addictive drugs. Therefore I oppose any effort to legalize marijuana. The proven harmful effects of the substance on the body and mind far outweigh any limited agricultural use or unproven medical benefits.
You may also know that H.R. 2306, the Ending Federal Marijuana Act of 2011, was introduced by Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, and would limit the application of federal laws to the distribution and consumption of marijuana.
H.R. 2306 was introduced on June 23, 2011, and was referred to the House Committees on the Judiciary and Energy and Commerce. No further action has taken place. As a member of the Committee on the Judiciary, rest assured I will keep your views in mind as this legislation is considered by Congress.
As of Dec. 2011, Goodlatte was also opposed to domestic hemp farming. "I believe the threat to the government's ability to prevent the cultivation of hemp for illegal use far outweighs the economic benefits that would be created by the legalization of the production of hemp for commercial uses," he told The Roanoke Times. (His opponent in the primary, retired Air Force officer Karen Kwiatkowski, supported both industrial hemp and defunding the DOJ's medical marijuana raids.) Going back even further, Goodlatte also opposed D.C.'s medical marijuana ballot initiative, which passed in 1999.