Gardner, Warren Reintroduce Act to Protect State Marijuana Rights

Gage Skidmore at Flickr
Colorado Senator Cory Gardner has come around on legal marijuana.
Senators Cory Gardner and Elizabeth Warren just reintroduced their States Act today, April 4, in hopes of guaranteeing states the right to choose their own marijuana policy. The two may seem an odd pairing, but Democrat Warren represents Massachusetts, where recreational cannabis is now legal, and Republican Gardner has pushed the feds before to observe Colorado's laws regarding marijuana.

Representatives Earl Blumenauer and David Joyce have introduced the bill concurrently in the House, and the measure is expected to be heard by a House committee within weeks, according to House Rules Committee chairman Jim McGovern, who's bullish on its chances.

The States Act would change the Controlled Substances Act, protecting any person acting within compliance of state or tribal marijuana laws from federal prosecution. Under its provisions, no one under 21 could legally buy marijuana, and federal criminal charges would apply to anyone who employed workers younger than eighteen in marijuana operations.

Gardner and Warren first introduced the legislation in 2018, when President Donald Trump indicated he'd support the bill.

“This is an issue across America, with states like Utah, Oklahoma, Michigan, Vermont, and Missouri approving new or expanded programs just last year," Gardner said in a statement announcing the reintroduction. “The federal government is closing its eyes and plugging its ears while 47 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.”

Marijuana policy reform is all the rage right now in Washington, D.C., where presidential hopefuls and lawmakers up for reelection are starting to come around on this whole pot thing. Colorado Congresswoman Diana DeGette, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden and New Jersey Senator (and early Democratic presidential candidate) Cory Booker have all introduced bills that would either end federal pot prohibition or allow states to make their own policies.

Colorado congressman Ed Perlmutter's SAFE Banking Act, which would allow banks and financial institutions to serve state-legal marijuana businesses, made marijuana history in March by passing out of a House Financial Services Committee on its way to the House floor. That bill currently has over 150 co-sponsors.

Colorado congressman Joe Neguse (center) and Senator Cory Gardner (second from left) announce the 2019 States Act in Washington, D.C. - COURTESY OF THE OFFICE OF CONGRESSMAN JOE NEGUSE
Colorado congressman Joe Neguse (center) and Senator Cory Gardner (second from left) announce the 2019 States Act in Washington, D.C.
Courtesy of the office of Congressman Joe Neguse
The 2019 States Act currently has eight co-sponsors in the Senate, including Colorado's Michael Bennet. The House version will have considerably more, including new Colorado rep Joe Neguse.

“The States Act would end the current conflict between federal and state law, allowing states like Colorado to continue effectively regulating our cannabis industry,” Neguse said in a statement announcing his support. “This affirmation in federal law would help ease the challenges currently faced across our state and open up the cannabis industry’s access to banks and loans. This legislation will also remove the threat of federal prosecution for actions that have been legal in our state since 2014. As we work towards cannabis legalization at the federal level and re-writing our outdated laws on this issue, I’m proud to support this important first step to ensure harmony between our federal and state laws.”

Marijuana advocates have praised the recent efforts of federal lawmakers but would prefer to see the plant removed from the CSA entirely, explains National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws political director Justin Strekal.

“The majority of states now regulate either the medical use or the adult use of marijuana. It is time for the federal government to cease standing in the way of these voter-backed regulatory policies being implemented throughout the country,” he says in response to the States Act. “Ultimately, however, we must remove marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act entirely in order to allow those in legal states to ultimately be free from undue federal discrimination and the fear of federal prosecution.”