On Thursday, April 4, a coalition of bipartisan lawmakers reintroduced a bill to Congress that would take the federal government’s hands off of determining cannabis policy.
The Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act has been filed in both houses of Congress and, if it’s passed, the bill would leave it to the states to determine their own marijuana policies.
This is the same bill that, last year, President Donald Trump told reporters that he “probably will end up supporting that, yes” — meaning that cannabis advocates are relatively optimistic about the odds that the bill actually passes into law.
The bill doesn’t leave out the places that Congress has jurisdiction over, such as Washington, D.C., which has seen Congress continually roadblock its adult-use law, or U.S. territories and recognized tribes. It also contains a few common-sense guards to ensure states, territories and tribes regulate cannabis safely.
The bill also calls on the Comptroller General of the United States to conduct a study on the effects of marijuana legalization on traffic safety. The lawmakers want to see data on things like crashes, fatalities and injuries and how they relate to cannabis legalization. Specifically, they want it to be investigated whether the state even has the ability to accurately determine marijuana impairment at the time of all the reported incidents. If the bill becomes law, the study would be given to Congress a year afterwards.
STATES Act Introduction https://t.co/vQMd6appgZ
— Earl Blumenauer (@repblumenauer) April 4, 2019
The Champions Behind the STATES Act
A coalition of lawmakers pushing the bill comes from both sides of the aisle. It includes U.S. Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Dave Joyce (R-OH), co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. In the Senate, it’s being introduced by presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO).
Last year, Gardner made headlines when he said the president supported the STATES Act, assuring him “that he will support a federalism-based legislative solution to fix this states’ rights issue once and for all.”
“Forty-seven states have legalized some form of cannabis and the majority of Americans support its legalization,” said Blumenauer in a joint statement with Joyce released by his office today. “Our outdated laws have ruined lives, devastated communities, and wasted resources for critical medical treatment and research. 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.”
Joyce noted that current federal policy interferes with the ability of states to implement their own cannabis laws, and the resulting system has stifled important medical research, hurt legitimate businesses and diverted critical law enforcement resources needed elsewhere.
“It’s past time for Congress to clarify cannabis policy on the federal level and ensure states are free to make their own decisions in the best interest of their constituents,” said Joyce. “The STATES Act does just that by respecting the will of the states that have legalized cannabis in some form and allowing them to implement their own policies without fear of repercussion from the federal government.”
Cannabis Advocates Back the Bill
The Marijuana Policy Project noted in a statement the STATES Act puts forth a good path for the cannabis industry to follow — especially as a stop-gap measure.
“This bipartisan legislation signals the eventual end of marijuana prohibition at the federal level,” Steve Hawkins, the executive director of MPP. “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 says MPP looks forward to the day when Congress is ready to enact more comprehensive reform, but they fully embrace the states’ rights approach proposed by this bill.
“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,” said Hawkins.
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