Feds Should Amend Marijuana and Hemp Laws, Legislatures Group Says

A photo from the National Conference of State Legislatures Facebook page. Additional images and more below.
A photo from the National Conference of State Legislatures Facebook page. Additional images and more below.
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The National Conference of State Legislatures is an organization that champions the rights of politicians at the state level.

And at the just-concluded NCSL Summit in Seattle, the group took a stand against federal interference when it comes to marijuana and hemp.

In a resolution on view below, the NCSL asks that federal laws "be amended to explicitly allow states to set their own marijuana and hemp policies."

Here's how the organization describes itself on its website:

Since 1975, NCSL has been the champion of state legislatures. We’ve helped states remain strong and independent by giving them the tools, information and resources to craft the best solutions to difficult problems. We’ve fought against unwarranted actions in Congress and saved states more than $1 billion. We’ve conducted workshops to sharpen the skills of lawmakers and legislative staff in every state. And we do it every day.

The "welcome" banner at last week's NCSL summit.
The "welcome" banner at last week's NCSL summit.

In recent years, marijuana and hemp have been very much on the NCSL's radar, for reasons described on an overview page devoted to the subjects. The following passage about 2015 cannabis proposals references legislation put forward in a slew of states:

Adult-use legalization bills currently are pending in Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas and Vermont. In addition, bills in Georgia and Missouri propose constitutional amendments on marijuana legalization; and a Louisiana bill also would provide for a proposition election to allow for legal adult use of marijuana. Legalization bills have failed in Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, New Hampshire, New Mexico and West Virginia; and an initiative petition in Nevada and constitutional amendment proposal in New Mexico also have failed. The pending Texas proposal would repeal criminal provisions but does not include taxation and regulation.

A bill in Maine addressing consistent drug-free workplace policies would require study of legal marijuana and the workplace. Study bills failed in Illinois, New Hampshire and Wyoming. A Maine measure failed that would have prohibited localities from referendums to legalize recreational use of marijuana.

In addition, nineteen states and the District of Columbia have decriminalized small amounts of marijuana, the NCSL points out; they are " Alaska (also now with legal provisions) California, Colorado (also now with legal provisions), Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington (also now with legal provisions), and the District of Columbia (also now with legal provisions)."

The new resolution also highlights the fact that "nearly half of the states and the District of Columbia allow the medical use of marijuana," despite the substance remaining illegal at the federal level. With that in mind, the authors of the document believe changes need to be made at the federal level. The final portion of the resolution reads:

BE IT RESOLVED that the National Conference of State Legislatures believes that federal laws, including the Controlled Substances Act, should be amended to explicitly allow states to set their own marijuana and hemp policies without federal interference and urges the administration not to undermine state marijuana and hemp policies.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the National Conference of State Legislatures recognizes that its members have differing views on how to treat marijuana and hemp in their states and believes that states and localities should be able to set whatever marijuana and hemp policies work best to improve the public safety,, health, and economic development of their communities.

Tom Angell of the Marijuana Majority sees this move as a positive step. Corresponding with Westword via e-mail, he writes that "while the Obama administration has made some helpful accommodations for states to move forward with their own marijuana policies, overarching federal prohibition laws still stand in the way of full and effective implementation. These state lawmakers are demanding that the federal government stop impeding their ability to set and carry out marijuana laws that work best for their own communities, and Congress should listen.

"Polls show that an overwhelming majority of Americans want the feds to get out of the way," Angell continues, "and national politicians would do well to take note of what their constituents are saying."

Here's the resolution.

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

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