Formerly Anti-Cannabis Senator Dianne Feinstein Backs Pro-Cannabis STATES Act

California’s Senator Dianne Feinstein appears to be changing her tune on cannabis.
Formerly Anti-Cannabis Senator Dianne Feinstein Backs Pro-Cannabis STATES Act
David Lee/ Flickr

Dianne Feinstein, the senior Democratic senator from California, has signed on as a sponsor of the STATES Act, a federal marijuana legalization bill now pending in the U.S. Senate. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) introduced and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) cosponsored the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States, or STATES, Act in June of this year. If passed, the bill would amend the Controlled Substances Act so that it is no longer applicable to statutes “relating to the manufacture, production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, or delivery of” cannabis, according to the text of the measure.

On Thursday, Feinstein became the tenth senator to join as a cosponsor of the legislation, according to Senate records. Requests from High Times for comment from Sen. Feinstein’s press representatives have not yet been answered.

Other senators supporting the bill include Democrats Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, and Republicans Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona. Sen. Warren has predicted that the measure will come before the full Senate for a vote if the Democrats are able to regain control of the legislative body in November’s upcoming elections.

Anti-Pot Past

Thursday’s endorsement of the STATES Act by Feinstein continues a shift in stance on marijuana from the senator, who has opposed legalization efforts in her home state of California. In May of this year, Feinstein announced that she had switched course on the subject and now wanted the federal government to respect states that had legalized cannabis.

“Federal law enforcement agents should not arrest Californians who are adhering to California law,” said Feinstein.

“My state has legalized marijuana for personal use, and as California continues to implement this law, we need to ensure we have strong safety rules to prevent impaired driving and youth access, similar to other public health issues like alcohol,” she added.

Prior to that declaration, though, Feinstein had been against legalization, vocally opposing Calfornia’s Prop 64 that legalized recreational pot in the Golden State in 2016. During that year’s campaign, Feinstein told reporters she would not be joining California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsome in supporting the measure.

“That may be one of the few issues that I would disagree with Gavin on,” she said. “I am not really for recreational use of marijuana. Medical use, yes.”

She also has helped to perpetuate the discredited “gateway drug” theory about marijuana, referencing her time spent on California’s parole board for women in the 1960s.

“I saw a lot of where people began with marijuana and went on to hard drugs,” Feinstein said in 2014.

The senator also has expressed little faith in cannabis users behaving responsibly.

“The risk of people using marijuana and driving is very substantial,” she said.

Feinstein Up For Reelection In November

Some cannabis reform advocates have been skeptical of Feinstein’s apparent change in heart. Feinstein is up for re-election in November when she will be facing off against California state senator and fellow Democrat Kevin de León. De León supports the legalization of cannabis and has publicly come out in favor of another federal bill aimed at that goal, Senate Bill 1689.

“We need leadership in Washington that will push for real marijuana reform like Proposition 64, instead of fomenting unfounded fears about cartels and our kids. It’s time to cut a path toward progress and support proposals for comprehensive marijuana legalization like Senator Cory Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act,” reads a statement on the candidate’s website.

California voters will decide between Feinstein and de León during this year’s general election on November 6.

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