April 04, 2019

Cortez Masto Cosponsors Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation to Protect States’ Marijuana Policies

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) joined Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) in reintroducing the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act to ensure that each state has the right to determine for itself the best approach to marijuana within its borders.

“Nevadans voted overwhelmingly to legalize marijuana. The federal government must respect the will of Nevada voters and allow states that have chosen to legalize marijuana to appropriately regulate and tax this growing industry. This legislation amends the federal law to ensure public safety and decrease the risk of money laundering by granting legitimately regulated cannabis businesses access to banking services,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “This bipartisan legislation respects the will of voters and brings these legitimate businesses out of the shadows.”

Also cosponsoring the bill are Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). U.S. Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and David Joyce (R-Ohio) have reintroduced its companion legislation in the House.


Forty-seven states have laws permitting marijuana or marijuana-based products, and Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and a number of tribal nations have similar laws. Last year alone, Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma, Utah, and Vermont all expanded legal marijuana. As states began developing their own approaches to marijuana enforcement, the Department of Justice issued guidance to support these state actions and focus law enforcement resources where most-needed. However, this guidance was withdrawn in 2018, causing legal uncertainty, threatening public health and safety issues, and undermining the states’ regulatory regimes.


  • Amends the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. § 801) (CSA) so that -- as long as states and tribal nations comply with a few basic protections -- its provisions no longer apply to any person acting in compliance with State or tribal laws relating to the manufacture, production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, or delivery of marijuana. 
  • Continues to apply the following federal criminal provisions under the CSA by prohibiting:
    • Endangerment of human life while manufacturing a controlled substance; and
    • Employment of persons under age 18 in marijuana operations.
  • Prohibits the distribution of marijuana at transportation safety facilities such as rest areas and truck stops.
  • Bars the distribution or sale of marijuana to persons under the age of 21 other than for medical purposes.
  • Instructs the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study on the effects of marijuana legalization on traffic safety, including whether states are able to accurately evaluate marijuana impairment, testing standards used by these states, and a detailed assessment of traffic incidents.
  • Addresses financial issues caused by federal prohibition by clearly stating that compliant transactions are not trafficking and do not result in proceeds of an unlawful transaction.
  • Contains common-sense guardrails to ensure that states, territories, and tribal nations regulating marijuana do so in a manner that is safe and respectful of the impacts on their neighbors.