Guest Editorial: Federal pot bill is a buzz-killing compromise
President Trump will “probably” support bipartisan legislation introduced June 7th to significantly curtail federal marijuana prohibition.
Sens. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, and Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, announced the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act, which would protect from federal interference states that have legalized marijuana.
A House version co-sponsored by David Joyce, R-Ohio, and Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, was also introduced.
Under the bill, federal laws against marijuana “shall not apply to any person acting in compliance with State law relating to the manufacture, production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, or delivery of marihuana.”
In other words, as long as a state has legalized marijuana, marijuana will be legal under federal law.
The bill quickly earned positive remarks from the president. “I support Sen. Gardner,” President Trump said when asked about the bill the day after the legislation was introduced. “I know exactly what he’s doing. We’re looking at it. But I probably will end up supporting that, yes.”
Trump’s comments are consistent with what he reportedly told Gardner back in April, when the Republican senator threatened to hold up nominees to the U.S. Department of Justice until he received assurances from the president that Colorado’s marijuana industry wouldn’t be targeted by the feds.
For the majority of Americans who support marijuana legalization, and the many activists and advocates who spent decades fighting for an end to marijuana prohibition, getting to this point where bipartisan legislation curtailing federal prohibition is readily introduced in both chambers of Congress and gets a nod from the president is certainly an accomplishment.
“The STATES Act represents a landmark moment in the movement to end the decades-long war on marijuana,” said Jolene Forman, staff attorney at the Drug Policy Alliance.
“It creates a workable framework for approaching the future of marijuana policy.”
The bill is a significant and meaningful step away from federal prohibition. It would protect people in the nine states that have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes, and the 29 that have legalized it for medicinal purposes, from unjustified federal intrusion and criminalization.
But the bill is lacking in many ways. Instead of actually ending federal marijuana prohibition, it merely provides states legal cover. There’s a very simple way of truly ending prohibition: striking marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act.
This bill does not do that.
There are plenty of bills that do. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colorado, for example, has introduced the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act which would actually end federal marijuana prohibition. There’s also the Marijuana Justice Act, introduced by Sen. Corey Booker, D-New Jersey, and cosponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, which would do the same.
If the Congress truly wishes to stick up for liberty and the 10th amendment, its members should actually end marijuana prohibition by striking marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act.
But if it comes down to the Gardner bill, it would certainly be an improvement over the status quo.