A bipartisan effort to end the senseless federal war on cannabis was launched on Thursday as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) joined forces to hammer out a comprehensive piece of legislation. The bill would allow individual states to determine their own policies regarding marijuana legalization without the threat of federal interference.
The far-reaching Senate bill – and companion legislation introduced in the House – would amend the Controlled Substances Act. The bill, called the “Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act” (STATES Act), would protect cannabis consumers from federal prosecution if they are complying with state cannabis laws.
“There’s not enough support in the U.S. Congress to repeal the ban on marijuana outright, but this gets the job done for Massachusetts and for other states that have legalized marijuana,” Warren said. “This isn’t some compromise where we stop here forever. This just lets states that want to move forward, to move forward.”
Warren and Gardner worked on drafting the bill shortly after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a cannabis policy reversal in January. In protest of Sessions’ crackdown on state cannabis regulations, Gardner essentially stymied Senate confirmation votes on Justice Department nominees. In April, Gardner coaxed a promise from President Donald Trump to steer clear of interfering with states which have voted to approve adult recreational cannabis.
Gardner spoke to Trump on Thursday and said the president confirmed his earlier promise. “We can’t go backwards. We can only go forwards,” Trump said, according to Gardner.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised that the bill will be heard on the floor of the Senate, according to Warren.
After waffling for years on the question of legal cannabis, Warren is now firmly in support of regulating adult recreational consumption. She sees it as a winning issue for Democrats this November. “I’ll be pitching it at Democratic lunches,” Warren said.
According to Warren, “The laws on the books make it harder for veterans to get treatment for chronic pain. They keep children with chronic diseases in agony and they make life miserable for individuals struggling with terminal diseases.
“The science is clear: Medical marijuana treatments are effective,” Warren added. “There is absolutely no reason patients should be prevented from seeking scientifically approved care, but right now, that is the reality for millions of people across the country. These archaic laws don’t just hurt individual people. They also hurt businesses that are in the marijuana business from getting access to banking services. That forces a multi-million-dollar industry to operate all in cash. That’s bad for business and bad for safety.”
As for Gardner, he believes that “our founders intended the states to be laboratories of democracy. Many states right now find themselves deep in the heart of that laboratory. As the president said in a conversation with me, ‘We can’t go backward. We can only go forward.’ The ketchup’s not going back in the bottle, as the old saying goes.”