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STATES Act to Fix Fractured Marijuana Policy at Federal Level


Graphic by De La Vaca

Forty-six states currently having law(s) on the books either permitting or (to some extent) decriminalizing recreational or medical marijuana or marijuana-based products. More importantly, 75% of Americans supporting states’ rights to set their own cannabis policies. The Trump administration’s recent rescinding of the Cole Memo – the Obama era policy we wrote about here – through marijuana regulation into upheaval, making more than one grower, owner, and smoker feel as nervous as a 90’s era smoker in a city park. The Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act (STATES Act) could help resolve the increasingly fractured regulatory framework currently hampering widespread adoption of marijuana at the state level.


Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., a longtime advocate of marijuana adoption and hero to weed lovers of all stripes, announced that he will introduce the bipartisan act in the House of Representatives, alongside Rep. David Joyce, R-Ohio, and Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore. The STATES Act has an identical bill unveiled the same day in the Senate by Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. This marks the first bicameral, bipartisan legislation to end the federal enforcement of prohibition in states that have reformed their marijuana laws.


The STATES Act leaves it up to each state to determine for itself the best approach to marijuana policy within its borders.

The STATES Act, according to Polis’ press release, specifically:

  • Amends the Controlled Substances Act (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 marijuana activities
  • Clearly states that compliant transactions are not trafficking and do not result in proceeds of an unlawful transaction
  • Removes industrial hemp from the list of controlled substances under the CSA

The following federal criminal provisions under the CSA continue to apply:

  • Prohibits endangering human life while manufacturing marijuana
  • Prohibits employment of persons under age 18 in drug operations
  • Prohibits the distribution of marijuana at transportation safety facilities such as rest areas and truck stops
  • Prohibits the distribution or sale of marijuana to persons under the age of 21 other than for medical purposes


What does all this mean for Colorado?


Like the other 45 states with degrees of legal weed, Colorado would no longer be in conflict with federal law. This would mean that, as a state, Colorado would be free to regulate marijuana, marijuana derivatives, and hemp as it sees fit without fear of federal interference or penalization. It means federal agents couldn’t arrest you for a baggie of that OG, and your dispensary couldn’t get raided and have all their sticky icky goods seized – so long as all are in compliance with state regulations. It also clears the way for banks to take cannabiz money without worries of federal prosecution.


A letter signed by over 55 supportive organizations for The STATES Act, in response to Senator Warren and Senator Gardner’s legislation in the Senate, says in part;

“Federal marijuana prohibition endangers public health and public safety, limits economic development, impedes scientific research, and leads to unjust and unnecessary arrests and incarceration. This failed federal policy is responsible for arrest of more than 600,000 Americans annually, a disproportionate share of whom are black, brown, young, and poor. We believe it long past due for Congress to take action to reform these outdated, unjust laws. Today, nearly every state in the country has taken steps toward implementing common-sense laws legalizing at least some aspects of cannabis commerce – making it clear that existing federal statutes are out of step with our Federalist system and require immediate federal reform.”

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