Today, Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) announced the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act, the Senate’s first-ever bipartisan bill that would protect states that legalize marijuana. A companion bill in the House of Representatives co-sponsored by David Joyce (R-OH) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) was also announced today.
The bills would protect states that legalize marijuana from federal interference, allowing individuals and businesses acting in compliance with state marijuana laws to operate without the threat of federal prosecution.
“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.”
Nine states and D.C. have legalized marijuana, and 29 states and D.C. have approved medical marijuana. Nationally, polls consistently show that nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults favor marijuana legalization.
Elected officials on both sides of the aisle have been galvanized by Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ threats to legal marijuana. The Warren-Gardner STATES Act emerged out of Sen. Gardner’s months-long blockade on Justice Department nominees after Sessions rescinded Obama-era guidance in January that protected state-level marijuana legalization. President Trump reportedly agreed last month to support Gardner’s bill in exchange for an end to the blockade.
Sen. Cory Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act has also been introduced in both the House and Senate, gathering numerous high-profile co-sponsors, including Senators Kamala Harris and Jeff Merkley last month. This far-reaching bill would not just end federal marijuana prohibition, but also includes a range of provisions to repair communities most affected by the war on drugs.
Earlier this year, Vermont became the first state to legalize marijuana through the state legislature. New York, New Jersey, New Mexico and numerous other states have also introduced bills to legalize marijuana this year.
The evidence so far shows that legally regulating and controlling marijuana has enabled states to successfully set safety standards, restrict youth access, and enact regulations that limit the potential harms of marijuana use. States are choosing to stop wasting money enforcing petty marijuana offenses, and to instead generate millions of dollars a year in tax revenues.
“The STATES Act is a first step toward ending the harms of marijuana prohibition,” added Forman. “This bipartisan proposal clears the way for states to develop their own marijuana policies without fear of federal intervention. This will give states more opportunity to restore communities that have borne the brunt of the drug war and mass criminalization.”