The affects of the federal prohibition of cannabis on the New Jersey legal medical marijuana industry would be lifted if a newly introduced bill in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives passes.
U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and U.S. Representatives David Joyce (R-Ohio) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) introduced the bipartisan Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act (STATES Act) to ensure that each state has the right to determine for itself the best approach to marijuana within its borders.
The bill also extends these protections to Washington D.C, U.S. territories, and federally recognized tribes, and contains common-sense guardrails to ensure that states, territories, and tribes regulating marijuana do so safely.
“Our federal marijuana laws are outdated and they’re broken. The law on the books makes it harder for veterans to get treatment for chronic pain, they keep children with rare diseases in agony, and they make life miserable for individuals struggling with terminal diseases,” Warren said, adding, “The way I see it we have two choices: We can either sit on the sidelines and we can bemoan the old fashioned policies or we can roll up our sleeves, get to work, and propose a solution.”
“Our founders intended the states to be laboratories of democracy,” Gardner said, standing alongside Warren at a Capitol press conference June 7. “And many states right now find themselves deep in the heart of that laboratory, but it’s created significant conflict between state law and federal law and how do we move forward.”
Gardner called the hurdles for banking in the marijuana industry “a public hypocrisy,” since the banking industry won’t serve customers who are, in the eyes of the federal government, outlaws.
“This city of Denver, the state of Colorado, can collect taxes. They can take it to the bank,” Gardner said. “But if you’re in the business, if you work for the business, you can’t get a bank loan or set up a bank account because of the concern over the conflict between the state and federal law.
“We need to fix this public hypocrisy.”
According to a fact sheet acoompanying the release if the bill, the STATES Act:
- Amends the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. § 801 et seq.) (CSA) 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 the manufacture, production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, or delivery of marijuana.
- Amends the definition of “marihuana” under the CSA (21 U.S.C. § 802(16)) to exclude industrial hemp, as defined in section 7606(b) of the Agricultural Act of 2014 (7 U.S.C. § 5940(b)).
- The bill does not alter CSA Section 417 (prohibition on endangering human life while manufacturing a controlled substance) and maintains the prohibition on employing persons under age 18 in marijuana operations, two federal requirements with which states, territories, and tribes must continue to comply.
- The bill prohibits the distribution of marijuana at transportation safety facilities such as rest areas and truck stops (Section 409).
- The bill does not allow for the distribution or sale of marijuana to persons under the age of 21 (Section 418) other than for medical purposes.
- To address financial issues caused by federal prohibition, the bill clearly states that compliant transactions are not trafficking and do not result in proceeds of an unlawful transaction.
“The STATES Act is the most significant piece of marijuana-related legislation ever introduced in Congress. With its bipartisan backing in the Senate, it symbolically signals the eventual end of marijuana prohibition at the federal level. This legislation reflects the position President Trump took on marijuana policy during his campaign, and it comes shortly on the heels of the positive comments he made to Sen. Gardner. The president has a unique opportunity to get behind historic legislation that enjoys solid support on both sides of the political spectrum,” Don Murphy, conservative outreach director for the Marijuana Policy Project, the nation’s largest marijuana policy organization, said in a statement.
“While we look forward to the day when there is full acceptance of cannabis at the federal level, we heartily embrace the states’ rights approach proposed by this bill. As an organization, we have been at the forefront of changing state marijuana laws for more than 20 years. It is time for those laws to be respected by and protected from the federal government.”