Bipartisan Bill Would Give States Control Over Marijuana Laws

April 4, 2019
In The News

A BIPARTISAN GROUP OF lawmakers has reintroduced a bill that would shield people complying with state marijuana laws from federal intervention, effectively leaving it up to states to decide their own marijuana laws and regulations.

Presidential hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass, and Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., reintroduced the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act, or STATES Act, in the Senate on Thursday. Reps. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., and David Joyce, R-Ohio, put the measure forth in the House. A nearly identical bill was introduced in both chambers in 2018 but stalled.

Trump has previously expressed support for the bill. The Senate version of the measure has a bipartisan list of high-profile cosponsors, including Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski, from Alaska, and Rand Paul, from Kentucky, as well as Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, from Minnesota. The House bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., and Tom Graves, R-Ga., among others.

Forty-seven states have laws permitting some form of marijuana or marijuana-based products, according to the sponsors. Ten states – along with Washington D.C., Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands – have legalized recreational marijuana. Marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

"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," Garner said in a statement. "The bipartisan STATES Act fixes this problem once and for all by taking a states' rights approach to the legal marijuana question."

The bill's reintroduction piggybacks on recent bipartisan enthusiasm for federal marijuana legislation that has been lacking in past congresses. Last week, a House panel approved a bill expanding marijuana businesses' access to banks and other financial services, sending it to an eventual full floor vote. It was just the third time a marijuana reform bill has cleared a congressional committee.

e House's top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday called for lawmakers to back the STATES Act in a letter to the panel's chairman, Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y.

Rep. Doug Collins from Georgia, along with Gaetz, wrote in the letter that they support the STATES Act and encouraged lawmakers to take up marjuana reform.

"The legal status of cannabis in the United States is in disarray. It is incumbent on Congress to clarify these issues and reform our federal laws," Collins and Gaetz wrote, according to Forbes.

Under the STATES Act, the federal Controlled Substances Act would be amended so that its provisions no longer apply to any personal acting in accordance with state or tribal marijuana laws.

The measure would still bar the distribution or sale of marijuana to anyone under 21 years old and would maintain a standing prohibition on the distribution of marijuana at transportation facilities like rest areas and truck stops. The bill would also mandate that the Government Accountability Office conduct a study on the effects of marijuana legalization on traffic safety.