STATES Act, Which Protects Legal Cannabis Businesses, Reintroduced in Congress

Does the STATES Act stand a chance at being signed into law?
STATES Act, Which Protects Legal Cannabis Businesses, Reintroduced in Congress

Lawmakers in the House and Senate reintroduced a bill on Thursday that would protect businesses and individuals complying with state cannabis laws from prosecution by the federal government. The bill was introduced in the Senate by Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and in the House by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oreg.) and Dave Joyce (R-Ohio).

Warren and Gardner originally introduced the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States, or STATES, Act in June 2018. If passed, the bill would amend the Controlled Substances Act so that it is no longer applicable to statutes “relating to the manufacture, production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, or delivery of” cannabis for activities that comply with state law.

Blumenauer said in a statement from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws that Congress should heed changing public opinion and reform federal cannabis policy.

“Forty-seven states have legalized some form of cannabis and the majority of Americans support its legalization. Our outdated laws have ruined lives, devastated communities, and wasted resources for critical medical treatment and research,” said Blumenauer. “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.”

Bill Supported by Cannabis Industry and Activists

Steve Hawkins, the executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, called on the president to endorse the bill if it succeeds in Congress.

“This bipartisan legislation signals the eventual end of marijuana prohibition at the federal level,” he said in a press release. “It reflects the position held by a strong majority of Americans that states should be able to develop their own cannabis policies without interference from the federal government. It also reflects the position President Trump took on marijuana policy throughout his campaign, and we are hopeful that he will have the opportunity to sign it into law.”

Hawkins noted that while full legalization at the federal level is the ultimate goal of cannabis reform, until then the states should be allowed to take the lead on policy.

“While we look forward to the day when Congress is ready to enact more comprehensive reform, we fully embrace the states’ rights approach proposed by this bill,” Hawkins said. “Nearly every state in the nation has enacted reforms that roll back the failed policy of marijuana prohibition in one way or another. This legislation will ensure those laws are respected by and protected from the federal government.”

Aaron Smith, the executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, said that legalizing marijuana puts it in the realm of regulated industry and discourages criminal elements.

“Regulating cannabis is successfully replacing illicit markets with licensed businesses in a growing number of states across the country,” Smith said. “This legislation will simply allow those state regulatory programs to succeed without federal interference.”

The Cannabis Trade Federation, a nonprofit education and advocacy group, hired 15 lobbyists in January to help reform bills succeed in Congress. Neal Levine, the CEO of the organization,  believes the bill could pass, noting that President Trump indicated in June that he would sign the bill.

“The STATES Act, it’s a bipartisan bill that the president has said he will sign into law,” Levine said. “So it’s the one piece of legislation from our intel that we think we have a legitimate chance to pass into law that would fundamentally address all of the major issues that the cannabis industry faces today,”

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