WASHINGTON – ABC News reported Thursday that a bipartisan group of senators has announced legislation that will protect states with legal marijuana from federal prosecution. The new bill is known as the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act (STATES) is an amendment to the Controlled Substances Act.
The STATES Act protects states from federal interference provided they follow federal guidelines, such as prohibiting those under 18 from employment in the marijuana industry or preventing people under 21 from buying marijuana, unless recommended by a physician.
The guidelines also prohibit interstate trafficking of marijuana into states that have banned the drug. States will be allowed to decide if and how to regulate marijuana locally. Washington, D.C. and 46 states and territories have some form of legalized marijuana for medicinal or recreational use, but it is illegal on the federal level.
The amendment was introduced by U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA.) and Cory Gardner (R-CO.), as well as U.S. Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR.) and David Joyce (R-Ohio). The STATES Act would also allow banks to provide services to marijuana businesses legally and would remove commercial hemp from the Controlled Substances Act. Cannabis is currently classified in the same class as heroin.
Gardener posted a tweet acknowledging the bill and saying that he introduced the amendment to implement a bipartisan approach to protecting states' rights.
"Our bill will ensure the federal government respects the will of the voters and not interfere in CO’s legal marijuana industry," he tweeted.
Warren said states, like Massachusetts, have worked hard to implement common sense pot regulations, adding "The federal government needs to get out of the business of outlawing marijuana."
She went on to say that the federal policies are outdated, and the criminal justice system is broken. Warren also acknowledged the new bill on her Twitter account with a video detailing the legislation.
“No One Should Go to Jail for a Joint.”
Warren also posted a tweet citing racism and wasted resources as good reasons to legalize marijuana.
"No one should go to jail for a joint. But more Americans are arrested for marijuana possession than all violent crimes combined. And black Americans are nearly 4x more likely to be arrested for it than whites," she tweeted, adding the new bill will end the two-tiered justice system.
The ACLU reports that Black people are almost four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana, and The New York Times reported that Black people in Manhattan were arrested for weed at 15 times the rate of Caucasians.
Blumenauer believes resources are wasted and lives needlessly ruined because of federal marijuana laws.
“For too long the senseless prohibition of marijuana has devastated communities, disproportionately impacting poor Americans and communities of color," he said.
He added medical research is hindered and resources wasted, adding "It’s past time to put the power back in the hands of the people. Congress must right this wrong.”
The Obama Administration already had a policy protecting states from federal prosecution in place, but the policy was rescinded by U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions in January. The Cole Memo was revoked by Sessions after he testified to Congress that he would not take such action, later saying that the Obama-Era policy "undermines the rule of law."
"Thanks to the Attorney General, more people feel the urgency of the moment in changing federal law on marijuana. Go Jeff Sessions," said Warren, adding that the amendment will ensure states no longer have to worry about the Justice Department trampling states' rights.
A bipartisan group of 54 lawmakers sent a letter to President Trump in January demanding the Obama policy be reinstated. Both Warren and Blumenauer signed the letter to the President, which quoted his campaign promises not to interfere in states' rights.
The STATES Act is a result of bipartisan action among the lawmakers and an agreement Gardner says he reached with Trump back in April to support states' rights. Gardner told the press he spoke to the President on Thursday morning about the bill but said he could not speak for Trump.