A bipartisan group of members of Congress are making a new effort to pass legislation that would block the federal government from interfering with states that have legalized cannabis.
The STATES Act does not seek to legalize marijuana, but instead proposes an amendment to the Controlled Substances Act that would shield people who follow state laws.
As many as 33 states and D.C. have legalized recreational or medical cannabis, but businesses and individuals in those states are technically violating federal law. The proposed legislation would resolve that discrepancy and still allow states without blocking states that want to keep marijuana prohibitions.
“This is a mainstream, federalism approach to a conflict that must be resolved,” Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) told Cheddar. “Even with a 60-vote threshold [in the Senate], this legislation will pass .... Let's get a vote; let's have a vote. Let's show the American people that we can actually solve problems."
The legislation, whose acronym stands for Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act, was first proposed last year by Gardner and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in the Senate, and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Rep. David Joyce (R-Oh.) in the House. The measure was defeated in the waning days of the last session of Congress.
But the bill’s backers are confident that the measure has the support it needs to pass this time around.
“We are convinced this is not only the right solution, it is the right time politically,” Blumenauer told reporters.
The bill is not considerably different than last year's bill, but the landscape of marijuana legalization has changed quite a bit. Forty-seven states permit some form of marijuana, the Farm Bill effectively legalized industrial hemp at the end of 2018, and Gardner has consistently maintained that Trump is supportive of the bill.
Trump acknowledged the STATES Act last June, telling reporters he would "probably will end up supporting that,” according to The New York Times.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who described himself as representing the “right edge of the cannabis reform movement” told reporters he anticipated "more collaborative discussions" with White House officials concerning the STATES Act now that former Attorney General Jeff Sessions was no longer the voice of the Department of Justice.
“Freedom is popular and I’m for more of it,” Gaetz added.