Amidst a public disagreement between President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions regarding the conflict between federal and state marijuana laws, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), announced introduction of a bipartisan bill to protect states with pot-friendly laws against federal prosecution. The bill, introduced on June 7, 2018 and called the “Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act” or the “STATES Act” proposes to protect state cannabis industries from the ire of federal drug enforcement authorities. A companion bill also has been introduced in the House. The full text of the Senate bill, S. 3032, is available here, and the corresponding House bill, H.R. 6043, is available here.
Currently, the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) classifies marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance, which means that it has a high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical use. As a Schedule I drug, any use, even simple possession, violates federal law. Right now, other Schedule I drugs include heroin, LSD, ecstasy (MDMA), and methaqualone (Quaaludes).
According to the STATES Act co-sponsors, if enacted, the law would amend the CSA to grant to states the right to determine whether to pass marijuana laws. It also proposed to remove industrial hemp from the CSA entirely. According to Sen. Gardner, the bill does not call for legalization of marijuana on a national level. Instead, according to his Tweet, it will “allow the principle of federalism to prevail as the founding fathers intended and leave the marijuana question up to the states…” This will allow those in the cannabis industry in the 30 states and Washington DC. with marijuana laws to breathe a sigh of relief.
Also, depending on its ultimate language, the STATES Act could provide clarity to employers in states with medical marijuana laws as they grapple with the tension between those laws and the CSA. It also could help employers navigating the Americans with Disabilities Act and state disability discrimination laws as they relate to worker use of medical marijuana to treat physical, mental, and emotional disabilities. But we will have to wait and see what the bill looks like in its final form.
In January, Attorney General Sessions renounced a policy from the Obama administration that allowed states to legalize marijuana for personal use without fear of federal enforcement. However, according to the Washington Post, before Sen. Warren and Sen. Gardner introduced the STATES Act, President Trump promised Sen. Gardner that he would support legislation to protect states from federal enforcement of the CSA. When recently asked about the STATES Act, President Trump reportedly said that he “probably will end up supporting that…”
That said, many attribute to President Trump a history of changing his mind, and many view his support for the bill as an affront to Attorney General Sessions, who has been publicly attacked by President Trump for recusing himself from the investigation into the President’s campaign activities. Thus, it is unclear whether President Trump’s will actually sign the law if it lands on his desk, despite his seeming support of a state’s right to enact pot-friendly laws. In the meantime, the Blunt Truth will track the STATES Act and provide updates in this blog.