By Tim Devaney - 05/07/14 02:32 PM EDT
Republican and Democratic lawmakers are calling on the federal government to stop arresting medical marijuana patients in states that have legalized pot for therapeutic purposes.
"Let's not bust these people who are using medical marijuana for medical purposes in their state," Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.) told reporters on Wednesday at a press conference.
Twenty-one states and Washington, D.C., have legalized medical marijuana, but pot remains illegal under federal law, which has led to clashes between the Justice Department and state authorities.
Farr pointed to several cases where the Justice Department has swooped in and arrested medical marijuana patients who believed they were following the rules of their state. He said this sends a mixed message to medical marijuana patients around the country.
"It's embarrassing that our country has this hardline policy at the federal level and a soft-line policy at the state level, and they're in conflict with each other," he said.
Farr was joined by Paul Broun (R-Ga.) in calling for the Justice Department to ease up on its drug enforcement actions against medical marijuana patients.
Broun, who is also a doctor, said medical marijuana can be "life saving."
"There are very real medical reasons to use this drug," Broun said. "Cannabis is not as dangerous as some other drugs out there that doctors around the country are prescribing every day."
Broun recalled a 2-year-old girl who had problems with seizures. He said medical marijuana would help her control her seizures, but it was not available at the time.
Broun also said medical marijuana can be used "very safely" to help cancer patients who are on chemotherapy deal with the pain.
Farr said he realizes that it may be difficult to gain broad bipartisan support for a controversial issue such as marijuana during an election year, but he called on lawmakers to take "baby steps" by directing the Justice Department to stay out of state affairs.
"I don't think we'll have a vote to legalize marijuana across the board this year," Farr said, "but you have to take baby steps."