By Justin Chermol
President Trump is prepared to sign legislation in Congress that would address one of the biggest conflicts over the legalization of marijuana in the U.S., Sen. Cory Gardner, a Colorado Republican, told Cheddar’s J.D. Durkin.
Gardner has introduced an amendment to criminal justice reform legislation that aims to protect individuals from federal prosecution for cultivating, selling, and buying marijuana in the growing number of states where the drug is legal.
"Being a states' rights approach has gained a lot of support for it," Gardner said.
The problem Gardner is trying to address is the conflict between Federal drug laws, which criminalize marijuana, and state like Colorado, which have legalized it. In those states, growers and stores are essentially barred from using the federal banking system to deposit money, write checks or use credit cards.
Gardner's amendment would change that, allowing federally insured banks to accept and exchange funds with the cannabis industry in states where it's legal.
"You have billions of dollars in cash floating around the country, can't go in banks because banks won't take it. It's considered money laundering even though its legal,"Gardner said of states that have legalized cannabis. If individuals work at a marijuana dispensary, Gardner added, they can't take out home loans.
According to Gardner, President Trump is amenable to the plan. "[Trump] would sign this bill if it were to come before his desk," he said.
His amendment, Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (or STATES Act), was originally a bipartisan and bicameral bill co-sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Ma) in June of 2018. At this juncture, Gardner describes it as "essentially... a criminal sentencing reform effort," he said.
The bill's stated goal is to ensure "that each state has the right to determine for itself the best approach to marijuana within its borders".
Whether the STATES Act amendment passes in the 115th Congress or not, 2019 could usher in a new era for marijuana legalization. A recent Gallup poll suggested that 66 percent of Americans are in support of legalization and the number of Republicans in favor is growing.