A senator from a state on the cusp of legalizing adult-use cannabis and another from a state with the oldest legal adult-use program in the country are coming together over a new bill that would protect any state that has legalized cannabis for any reason or is seeking to do so.
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Ma.), who supported marijuana legalization in Massachusetts, is teaming up with Senator Cory Gardner (R-Co.), who opposed legalization in his state, to propose bi-partisan legislation to let states chart their own course on cannabis.
Sens. Warren and Gardner Want To Let States Choose Their Own Destiny
In an interview with NBC’s Morning Joe, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren said that policy decisions about marijuana are a “place for the federal government to recede and let states take the lead.”
Warren reminded viewers that the federal prohibition on cannabis prohibits state-legal cannabis businesses from accessing key resources. She referenced the familiar cash problem faced by cannabis businesses who cannot bank with federally insured financial institutions. But federal prohibition hurts the legal cannabis industry in other ways, making it harder to get insurance coverage, for example.
Federal prohibition creates “all these crazy fallout pieces,” Sen. Warren said on Morning Joe. “It’s dangerous and it’s dumb.”
Colorado Senator Cory Gardner echoed Warren’s arguments. But he also placed emphasis on the issue as fundamentally one about states’ rights. For Gardner, marijuana legislation presents an ideal opportunity to champion the federalism many Framers imagined when they penned the U.S. Constitution.
“[States are] laboratories of democracy,” Gardner said during the interview.
Bi-Partisan Bill Won’t Legalize Cannabis, But It Would Establish Intra-State Federal Guidelines
According to Boston Magazine, in a press conference formally announcing their legislative bid, Sens. Warren and Gardner stressed that the bill was not a legalization measure. Its goal, however, is to fix the existing conflict between federal and state cannabis laws.
To do so, the senators propose setting up federal guidelines in legal marijuana states. Guidelines would include age requirements for sales, safety standards, and some restrictions, including restricting selling cannabis at rest stops. The bill would also free up federally insured banks to do business with legal cannabis businesses.
The central component of the legislation, however, is the protection from federal prosecution it would grant to states that have legalized cannabis. “Let’s regularize this,” Warren said.
The STATES Act
Gardner and Warren’s Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act is a bi-partisan bill. Warren says the proposal is generating enthusiasm across the political spectrum, giving it better odds in the Senate than usual.
Sen. Gardner has even managed to get a statement of support from President Trump. On Morning Joe, Gardner said Trump agreed there was no going back on the issue of legal cannabis. The Washington Post reported that Trump would back legislation like the STATES Act.
For his part, Sen. Gardner, a Republican, has sharply rebuked the policy shift on marijuana enforcement that Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced earlier this year. Gardner had even threatened to hold up Sessions’ justice department appointments over the AG threatening to come after states that had legalized marijuana.
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