A states’ rights bill that would allow each state to determine its own marijuana policy without interference from the federal government was introduced June 7 in the Congress. The Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act has been sponsored by two Senators, Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Corey Gardner (D-Colo.), and two Representatives, Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and David Joyce (R-Ohio). It also protects Washington, D.C.; U.S. territories; and federally-recognized tribes.
What the Bill Does
• Amends the Controlled Substances Act CSA) so that—as long as states and tribes comply with a few basic protections—its provisions no longer apply to any person acting in compliance with state or tribal laws relating to the manufacture, production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration or delivery of marijuana.
• Amends the definition of “marihuana” under the CSA to exclude industrial hemp.
• It does not alter CSA Section 417 (prohibition on endangering human life while manufacturing a controlled substance) and maintains the prohibition on employing persons under age 18 in marijuana operations, two federal requirements with which states, territories and tribes must continue to comply.
• Prohibits the distribution of marijuana at transportation safety facilities such as rest areas and truck stops.
• It does not allow for the distribution or sale of marijuana to persons under the age of 21 other than for medical purposes.
• To address financial issues caused by federal prohibition, the bill clearly states that compliant transactions are not trafficking and do not result in proceeds of an unlawful transaction.
• Sen. Warren: “Outdated federal marijuana laws have perpetuated our broken criminal justice system, created barriers to research and hindered economic development. States like Massachusetts have put a lot of work into implementing common sense marijuana regulations—and they have the right to enforce their own marijuana policies. The federal government needs to get out of the business of outlawing marijuana.”
• Sen. Gardner: “In 2012, Coloradans legalized marijuana at the ballot box and the state created an apparatus to regulate the legal marijuana industry. But because of the one-size-fits-all federal prohibition, state decisions like this put Colorado and other states at odds with the federal government. The federal government is closing its eyes and plugging its ears while 46 states have acted. The bipartisan STATES Act fixes this problem once and for all by taking a states’ rights approach to the legal marijuana question. The bipartisan, commonsense bill ensures the federal government will respect the will of the voters—whether that is legalization or prohibition—and not interfere in any states’ legal marijuana industry.”
SEN. WARREN: “The federal government needs to get out of the business of outlawing marijuana.”
• Rep. Blumenauer: “For too long the senseless prohibition of marijuana has devastated communities, disproportionately impacting poor Americans and communities of color. Not to mention, it’s also wasted resources and stifled critical medical research. It’s past time to put the power back in the hands of the people. Congress must right this wrong.”
• Rep. Joyce: “We should trust the people of the states, like Ohio, who’ve voted to implement responsible common-sense regulations and requirements for the use, production and sale of cannabis. If the people of these states have decided to provide help for those veterans and others suffering from pain and other health issues, we should allow them access without government interference.”
The Act has been endorsed by NORML, Drug Policy Alliance, National Cannabis Industry Association, Marijuana Policy Project, Americans for Safe Access, National Cannabis Bar Association and a number of other organizations.
• Erik Altieri, executive director, NORML: “President Trump made a commitment to Senator Gardner that he was willing to support a federalist approach to state marijuana laws. Now Congress must do its part and swiftly move forward on this bipartisan legislation that explicitly provides states with the authority and autonomy to set their own marijuana policies absent the fear of federal incursion from a Justice Department led by militant cannabis prohibitionist Attorney General Jeff Sessions.”
• Jolene Forman, staff attorney, Drug Policy Alliance: “The STATES Act represents a landmark moment in the movement to end the decades-long war on marijuana. It creates a workable framework for approaching the future of marijuana policy. The STATES Act is a first step toward ending the harms of marijuana prohibition. This bipartisan proposal clears the way for states to develop their own marijuana policies without fear of federal intervention. This will give states more opportunity to restore communities that have borne the brunt of the drug war and mass criminalization.”
ERIK ALTIERI: “Congress must do its part and swiftly move forward on this bipartisan legislation.”
• Don Murphy, conservative outreach director, Marijuana Policy Project: “The STATES Act is the most significant piece of marijuana-related legislation ever introduced in Congress. With its bipartisan backing in the Senate, it symbolically signals the eventual end of marijuana prohibition at the federal level. This legislation reflects the position President Trump took on marijuana policy during his campaign, and it comes shortly on the heels of the positive comments he made to Sen. Gardner. The president has a unique opportunity to get behind historic legislation that enjoys solid support on both sides of the political spectrum. While we look forward to the day when there is full acceptance of cannabis at the federal level, we heartily embrace the states’ rights approach proposed by this bill.”
On April 13, Sen. Gardner revealed that he had brokered a deal with Pres. Trump that would allow recreational marijuana businesses in the nine legal states to operate without federal interference. Gardener stated: “Late Wednesday (April 11), I received a commitment from the President that the Department of Justice’s rescission of the Cole Memo will not impact Colorado’s legal marijuana industry. Furthermore, President Trump has assured me that he will support a federalism-based legislative solution to fix the states’ rights issue once in for all.” In exchange, Gardner said he would no longer block Trump’s Justice Department nominees.
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