On December 17, Senator Cory Gardner introduced an amendment to a federal prison reform bill that would protect a state's right to legalize marijuana and determine how to regulate it within its borders.
Republican Gardner first helped introduce the legislation as its own bill, in a bipartisan effort with Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren known as the States Act. Despite gaining considerable attention over the summer, including an expression of support from President Donald Trump, the bill gained only ten co-sponsors after its introduction in June.
Similar to hemp's anticipated legalization through the 2018 Farm Bill, Garner's current proposal is an amendment to a much broader bill, the First Step Act, which is expected to pass whether his amendment does or not. If Garner's measure is approved (and the entire bill passes), it would essentially protect tribal- and state-compliant marijuana programs, businesses and users from federal repercussion under the Controlled Substances Act.
According to Gardner's staff, the amendment:
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- Amends the Controlled Substances Act so that — as long as states and tribes comply with a few basic protections — its provisions no longer apply to any person acting in compliance with state or tribal laws relating to marijuana activities.
- Clearly states that compliant transactions are not trafficking and do not result in proceeds of an unlawful transaction.
- Prohibits endangering human life while manufacturing marijuana.
- Prohibits employment of persons under age 18 in drug operations.
- Prohibits the distribution of marijuana at transportation safety facilities such as rest areas and truck stops.
- Prohibits the distribution or sale of marijuana to persons under the age of 21 other than for medical purposes.
Gardner had been expected to introduce the amendment since last week, when Marijuana Moment first reported his intentions. The senator has been a proponent of reforming federal laws that severely hamper the legal marijuana industry's access to banking, business loans, public shareholders and tax exemptions, since the plant is still federally illegal.
“Saturday marked the 227th anniversary of the ratification of the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution. ... I can think of no better way to honor that milestone than to pass the bipartisan States Act, and I can think of no better legislation to attach the States Act to than the First Step Act,” Gardner says in a statement. “And it’s not just Colorado: 47 states now allow some form of legalized cannabis. ... It’s time for Congress to act to protect states’ rights. I call on my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to take up and pass this important amendment today.”
Short for the Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed Safely Transitioning Every Person Act, the First Step Act is a broad set of legislative reforms to the federal prison system; the Senate is expected to vote on the bill and its amendments on Tuesday, December 18.