Bipartisan marijuana legislation proposed Thursday in the House and Senate establishes protections for states that pass laws inconsistent with the federal government’s prohibition on pot.
Passage of the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act of 2019, or STATES Act, would amend the federal law banning marijuana to include exemptions for individuals and businesses in compliance with contradictory state laws.
Marijuana is considered a Schedule 1 drug under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act, placing the plant alongside heroin in a highly restrictive category reserved for narcotics prone to abuse. Most states have legalized marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes, however, flying in the face of federal prohibition and running afoul of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s nationwide rules.
The STATES Act would amend the CSA to provide protections for “any person acting in compliance with State law relating to the manufacture, production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration or delivery” or marijuana.
The bill was introduced by Sen. Cory Gardner, Colorado Republican, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democrat, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Oregon Democrat, and Rep. Dave Joyce, Ohio Republican, and has garnered the support so far of trade groups including the Cannabis Trade Federation and the National Cannabis Industry Association.
“Our outdated laws have ruined lives, devastated communities, and wasted resources for critical medical treatment and research,” said Mr. Blumenauer, founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. “The STATES Act is the next logical step in a comprehensive blueprint for more rational federal cannabis policy. It’s time for Congress to catch up with the rest of America are and fix a badly broken system.”
Mr. Joyce echoed those sentiments.
“The current federal policy interferes with the ability of states to implement their own cannabis laws, and the resulting system has stifled important medical research, hurt legitimate businesses and diverted critical law enforcement resources needed elsewhere,” he said. “It’s past time for Congress to clarify cannabis policy on the federal level and ensure states are free to make their own decisions in the best interest of their constituents.”
Mr. Gardner unsuccessfully touted a version of the STATES Act in 2018, and he said at the time that President Trump told him that he would sign the bill if it survived Congress.