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Pot Bill Supported by Trump Going Nowhere Fast in Congress

The STATES Act has reached a congressional impasse.

A.J. Herrington

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Pot Bill Supported by Trump Going Nowhere Fast in Congress
Gage Skidmore/ Wikimedia Commons

The cannabis bill supported by President Donald Trump does not appear to have much traction with lawmakers. So far, congressional leaders have failed to back the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced the bill in the Senate on June 7. Then the following day, Trump told reporters that he “would probably support” the STATES Act, as the bill is also known. Two months earlier, Gardner announced that he and the president had come to an agreement about cannabis and states’ rights, ending an impasse over judicial nominees.

Congressional Leaders Haven’t Yet Signed On

But despite the support from Trump for the bipartisan bill, key congressional leaders have not yet backed it. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has said that he supports the decriminalization of marijuana. But a spokesperson told BuzzFeed in an email that the senator hasn’t endorsed the STATES Act.

“Schumer hasn’t taken a position on this bill,” the spokesperson said.

The Republican chairs of key congressional committees have also not yet backed the STATES Act. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which would have to approve the bill before it could make it to a vote by the full Senate. An aide to the committee said that Grassley has no plans to entertain cannabis legalization bills.

“Sen. Grassley is not planning or considering hearings on any marijuana-related legislation at the moment,” the aide said.

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s ranking Democrat, Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), has said she supports the bill. But without the support of Republicans, the STATES Act seems doomed in the Senate.

A similar fate appears probable in the House of Representatives. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) favors the bill, according to a spokesperson.

“Leader Pelosi strongly supports this bipartisan legislation and hopes that it will continue to gain momentum,” a spokesperson said.

But Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, has not scheduled any meetings or hearings about the STATES Act, according to a committee aide.

“No Committee action is planned at this time,” the aide said.

Without the backing of key Republicans, the bill has little chance of advancing any further.

Bill Would Let States Decide

If the bill does somehow garner the support it needs to become law, it would be a major change to federal cannabis regulation. The bill allows the states to set their own marijuana regulations and amends the Controlled Substances Act to exclude cannabis activity conducted in accordance with state laws. The bill would also legalize industrial hemp and protect banks that do business with cannabis firms.

Mason Tvert, a spokesperson for Washington D.C. advocacy group the Marijuana Policy Project, told High Times that despite the lack of progress, the STATES Act still has a chance of success.

“Support for ending marijuana prohibition is stronger than ever and growing fast among members of Congress,” Tvert said. “While the Judiciary Committee chairs’ statements are disappointing, it’s promising to see members like Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who fought reform efforts for years, come out in support.”

“We expect the debate will continue and support will expand further on both sides of the aisle over the next six months. Given the president’s comments and the trajectory of public and congressional support, it’s certainly possible that we’ll see some movement this year. It’s also worth noting that the balance of power could shift after the midterm elections, in which case there could be new committee leadership.”

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