June 07, 2018

Cortez Masto Cosponsors Bipartisan STATES Act to Protect State Marijuana Policies

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Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) cosponsored bicameral, bipartisan legislation entitled the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act (STATES Act) to ensure that each state has the right to determine for itself the best approach to marijuana within its borders. The bill also extends these protections to Washington D.C, U.S. territories, and federally recognized tribes, and contains common-sense guardrails to ensure that states, territories, and tribes regulating marijuana do so safely.

“Nevada voters have made it clear that they favor the regulation and taxation of marijuana in the state,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “The federal government must respect the rights of states who choose to legalize and regulate marijuana. This bipartisan bill will allow Nevada to continue benefitting from the economic development and increased tax revenue that the cannabis industry has brought to the state, while also respecting the rights of states that have not chosen to pursue legalization. It will also address the federal government’s antiquated approach to the issue that has allowed the black market to thrive and created public safety and money laundering risks by refusing to allow cannabis businesses to access banking services.” 

BACKGROUND: 

Forty-six states currently have laws permitting or decriminalizing marijuana or marijuana-based products – and Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and a number of tribes have similar laws. As states developed their own approaches to marijuana enforcement, the Department of Justice issued guidance to safeguard these state actions and ensure practical use of limited law enforcement resources. However, this guidance was withdrawn earlier this year, creating legal uncertainty, threatening public health and safety, and undermining state regulatory regimes.

Ignoring the ability of states, territories, and tribes to determine for themselves what type of marijuana regulation works best comes with real costs. Legitimate businesses that comply with state laws are blocked from access to basic banking services. Illicit markets often spring up and local law enforcement must divert resources needed elsewhere. Thousands of people are prosecuted and locked up in our criminal justice system. Qualified scientists and state public health departments struggle to conduct basic and epidemiological research or spur medical advances, and the fundamental nature of state and tribal sovereignty is violated. As more states, territories, and tribes thoughtfully consider updates to marijuana regulations, often through voter-initiated referendums, it is critical that Congress take immediate steps to safeguard their right to do so by passing the STATES Act. 

The STATES Act: 

  • 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.

The full bill text is available HERE.

The STATES Act was led by U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Representatives David Joyce (R-Ohio) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.). It is cosponsored in the Senate by Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). It is cosponsored in the House by Representatives Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Ken Buck (R-Colo.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Walter Jones (R-N.C.), Dianna DeGette (D-Calif.), Rob Blum (R-Iowa), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Matt Geatz (R-Fla.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), Luis Correa (D-Calif.), Jason Lewis (R-Minn.), and Ro Khanna (D-Calif.).

The legislation has been endorsed by organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Americans for Safe Access, Americans for Tax Reform, the Brennan Center for Justice, Campaign for Liberty, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Cooperative Credit Union Association, the Drug Policy Alliance, the Institute for Liberty, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, the Law Enforcement Action Partnership, the Marijuana Policy Project, the Massachusetts Bankers Association, the Maine Credit Union League, the Mountain West Credit Union Association, the National Cannabis Industry Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the New Federalism Fund, NORML, the Northwest Credit Union Association, R Street, and the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

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