June 7, 2018, was a historic day in Congress with both chambers seeing major legislation introduced that would provide protection to states that have legalized cannabis.
In the Senate, Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act.
The STATES Act would amend the Controlled Substances Act to exempt cannabis-related activities in legal states, territories, or on tribal lands.
The measure would also protect banks that work with cannabis businesses and legalize industrial hemp.
A companion bill was also introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressmen Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and David Joyce (R-OH).
Other measures have been introduced into Congress that would change federal cannabis law, but this effort is particularly promising because of how it came about.
Trump promised to sign the legislation
Earlier this year United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded Obama-era guidance that provided protection for states that had legalized cannabis for medical and/or adult-use.
In reaction to the rescinding of the memo, Senator Cory Gardner vowed to block all Department of Justice nominees and for a time kept his promise.
Senator Gardner later backed off after he received assurances from Donald Trump that if a states cannabis rights bill reached his desk he would sign it.
The bills introduced into the Senate and House today are the result of the deal originally struck between the president and Senator Gardner.
Because the bills have bipartisan support and an expressed commitment from the president this particular effort has a better chance of succeeding than other legislation.
Since the introduction of the Senate bill reports have surfaced that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will schedule a vote for the bill, which is extremely significant.
What bill sponsors had to say about the bills
“Outdated federal marijuana laws have perpetuated our broken criminal justice system, created barriers to research, and hindered economic development,” said Senator Warren said in a press release.
“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,” she went on to say in the release.
Senator Gardner weighed in as well:
“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.”
Senator Gardner also stated, “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.”
In a press release sent to Green Flower, Congressman Earl Blumenauer added:
“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.”
“We should trust the people of the states, like Ohio, who have voted to implement responsible common-sense regulations and requirements for the use, production, and sale of cannabis,” said Representative Joyce.
“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,” he added.
Activism leaders react to the historic legislation
Don Murphy, conservative outreach director for the Marijuana Policy Project stated:
“The STATES Act is the most significant piece of marijuana-related legislation ever introduced in Congress.”
Jolene Forman, staff attorney at the Drug Policy Alliance:
“The STATES Act represents a landmark moment in the movement to end the decades-long war on marijuana.”
Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA):
“This legislation allows states to make their own decisions on how cannabis is treated within their borders and would be an important step toward protecting the legal businesses that make up one of the nation’s fastest growing industries.”
“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.”
What you can do to help the legislation pass
If you have not contacted your federal lawmakers and urged them to support these pieces of legislation, please do so now and repeat the activity often.
Point out that the bills are bipartisan pieces of legislation and that polls show that an overwhelming percentage of Americans support federal cannabis reform.
Also, make sure to contact the White House and urge President Donald Trump to keep the promise that he made to Senator Gardner to sign the legislation when it gets to his desk.
If we all do our part we can help make these bills successful and in the process, help move cannabis legalization forward nationwide!