Senators Warren and Gardner Release STATES Act to Respect State Cannabis Laws

June 07, 2018 | David Mangone

Washington, DC — U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) introduced the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act (STATES Act) to respect state determinations about cannabis policy. The bill was also introduced in the House of Representatives by David Joyce (R-OH) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).

The STATES Act allows each state, the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico, as well as several tribal governments, to determine their own policy when it comes to cannabis laws without interference from the Department of Justice or other federal agencies. This bill does not legalize cannabis at the federal level but rather allows states the power to set policies approving or prohibiting cannabis. The STATES Act also resolves many of the issues of taxes and banking that have hindered the medical cannabis industry.

“The STATES Act is the perfect example of bipartisan cooperation. 94% of Americans think that medical cannabis should be legal, and it is about time that Congress catches up to public opinion.“ said Steph Sherer, Executive Director for Americans for Safe Access “While the STATES Act does not solve all the challenges faced by medical cannabis patients, it removes the massive barrier of Federal-State conflict. When states are allowed to set their own medical cannabis laws free from interference, states can develop programs that allow for the use of medical cannabis for chronic pain and opioid use disorder potentially saving thousands of lives”

While recent data from the U.S. Sentencing Commission shows that federal prosecutions of cannabis related offenses has declined sharply since 2013, medical patients still live in fear of prosecution. The STATES Act creates a permanent solution to ending the federal-state conflict, and would end the need for the Commerce, Justice and Science Amendment that protects patients from federal interference that must be renewed every year.

"Outdated federal marijuana laws have perpetuated our broken criminal justice system, created barriers to research, and hindered economic development," said Senator Warren. "States like Massachusetts have put a lot of work into implementing common sense marijuana regulations - and they have the right to enforce their own marijuana policies. The federal government needs to get out of the business of outlawing marijuana."

"In 2012, Coloradans legalized marijuana at the ballot box and the state created an apparatus to regulate the legal marijuana industry. But because of the one-size-fits-all federal prohibition, state decisions like this put Colorado and other states at odds with the federal government," said Senator Gardner. "The federal government is closing its eyes and plugging its ears while 46 states have acted. The bipartisan STATES Act fixes this problem once and for all by taking a states' rights approach to the legal marijuana question. The bipartisan, commonsense bill ensures the federal government will respect the will of the voters - whether that is legalization or prohibition - and not interfere in any states' legal marijuana industry."

"We should trust the people of the states, like Ohio, who have voted to implement responsible common-sense regulations and requirements for the use, production, and sale of cannabis," said Representative Joyce. "If the people of these states have decided to provide help for those veterans and others suffering from pain and other health issues, we should allow them access without government interference."

"For too long the senseless prohibition of marijuana has devastated communities, disproportionately impacting poor Americans and communities of color. Not to mention, it's also wasted resources and stifled critical medical research," said Representative Blumenauer. "It's past time to put the power back in the hands of the people. Congress must right this wrong."

Americans for Safe Access issued a letter of support for this bill. This legislation is also supported by the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Tax Reform, the Brennan Center for Justice, Campaign for Liberty, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Cooperative Credit Union Association, the Drug Policy Alliance, the Institute for Liberty, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, the Law Enforcement Action Partnership, the Marijuana Policy Project, the Massachusetts Bankers Association, the Maine Credit Union League, the Mountain West Credit Union Association, the National Cannabis Bar Association, the National Cannabis Industry Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the New Federalism Fund, NORML, the Northwest Credit Union Association, R Street, and the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

A fact sheet about the legislation is available here, and the full bill text is available here.

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