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Bill to End Federal Cannabis War Gathers Steam

June 11, 2018
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. (AP FILE Photo/Julio Cortez)New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. (AP FILE Photo/Julio Cortez)
A strange-bedfellows mix of powerful state governors and members of Congress signed on to end the decades-old war on marijuana—via the newly introduced STATES Act.

Momentum seemed to build over the weekend for the bill, introduced Thursday by Sen. Corey Gardner (R-CO) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). On Friday, the governors of California and New York, as well as their counterparts in 10 other states, urged congressional leaders to advance the bill.

California Gov. Jerry Brown endorsed the plan to exempt legalization states from federal pot law in a joint letter with Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, and others.

Saturday, Sen. Kamala Harris, one of two senators from California, tweeted, “We need to get this done.”


With Trump’s Support, STATES Act Could End Nationwide Cannabis Prohibition

“Legalizing marijuana at the federal level is about stopping our country from repeating the same mistakes of the past,” she wrote. “Most Americans already know that too many lives have been needlessly ruined because of the War on Drugs.”

Harris said that US Attorney General Jeff Sessions should focus on international gangs and traffickers, “not going after Americans who are using recreational and medicinal marijuana.”

A Washington Post analysis finds the STATES Act to be a well-built bill that many Republicans could get behind. “It would enable them to simultaneously say on one hand that they still believe marijuana is an evil weed … but … if it’s what their constituents want…”

California consumer advocate Dale Gieringer, the executive director for California NORML, wrote Saturday that among the half-dozen cannabis bills in Congress, “the STATES Act offers the most realistic, far-reaching path forward towards ending federal marijuana prohibition.”

The bill also won support from growers on the West Coast and bankers on the East.


FAQ: What the STATES Act Would Do, and Why It’s a Game-Changer

“It’s a really elegant solution,” Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers Association, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “It doesn’t go all the way, but it does alleviate some of the day-to-day challenges we face.”

The Maine Credit Union industry also chimed in, noting the real and present danger of increased robbery due to federal cannabis prohibition’s banking bans.

“This has become not only a states’ rights issue, but an important public safety issue,” wrote Todd Mason and Scott Earl, the CEOs of two Maine state credit union industry groups.

The bill is quite narrow in legal scope, exempting some states from the Controlled Substances Act’s marijuana provisions. Nick Etten, founder and executive director of the Veterans Cannabis Project, noted it does nothing on its own for veterans.

Columnist Ira Stoll notes that it unites progressive Sen. Elizabeth Warren on the left and conservative bulwark Justice Clarence Thomas on the right. It’s also quite a big deal, temporarily patching a problematic bit of the source code of modern American law.

“The question of marijuana regulation offers an opportunity to revisit the entire misguided history of Commerce Clause jurisprudence that goes back to Wickard v. Filburn (1942) and even before that to the Shreveport Rate Cases (1914),” Stoll writes.

Justice Thomas wrote in his dissent of the decision underpinning the federal war on cannabis: “If the Federal Government can regulate growing a half-dozen cannabis plants for personal consumption … then [federal Commerce Clause powers] have no meaningful limits.”

This rare bipartisanship is actually how democracy is supposed to work. Dismantling prohibition state by state would be similar to how it was built, state by state.


Sen. Cory Gardner: How a Prohibitionist Became Legalization’s Defender

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal catalogued US Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ setbacks on cannabis policy Monday. Though he’s usually fond of the bully pulpit, Sessions didn’t say a peep about cannabis at a conservative conference in Colorado Friday, noted writer Tom Angell.

Both sides of the cannabis issue are fundraising off of it, naturally. Patients group Americans for Safe Access told followers, “We have never been closer than we are right now to permanently changing federal cannabis policy.” Conversely, anti-legalization group Project SAM told followers in an email to donate and call the White House before the STATES Act unleashed a drug epidemic.

The STATES Act has to get a committee hearing date, and then be allowed to come up for committee votes on a long path to a White House signature.

Critics warn of believing anything President Trump says, pointing to a record of deception and ethics-free quid-pro-quo. In that transaction, however, more than 70 percent of voters support a states rights solution to the federal-state impasse.

“At least nine marijuana bills are scheduled for committee hearings this week,” Angell estimated. And four added sponsors over this past weekend.


President Trump Will ‘Probably’ Back STATES Act to End Federal Prohibition

David Downs's Bio Image

David Downs

David Downs directs news and lifestyle coverage as the California Bureau Chief for He's written for WIRED, Rolling Stone and Billboard, and is the former cannabis editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, as well as the author of several cannabis books including 'Marijuana Harvest' by Ed Rosenthal and David Downs. He co-hosts The Hash podcast. TW: @davidrdowns | IG @daviddowns

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  • Stel-1776

    Those who believe in limited government, personal responsibility, free markets, and individual liberty should embrace the ending of this irrational, un-American cannabis prohibition. It should be the cornerstone of current GOP policy.

    About half of the U.S. population has tried cannabis, at least 15% use it regularly, over 80% of high school seniors have reported cannabis “easy to get” for decades. Those who really want to use cannabis heavily already are. Prohibition does little or nothing to prevent problematic use. In many cases prohibition makes cannabis usage problematic where it would not have been otherwise, be it light, moderate, or heavy usage. For the most part, cannabis prohibition only successfully prohibits effective regulation.

    A few issues created by prohibition: there are no quality controls to reduce contaminants (harmful pesticides, molds, fungus, other drugs), there is no practical way to prevent regular underage sales, billions in tax revenue are lost which can be used for all substance abuse treatment, underground markets for all drugs are empowered as a far more popular substance is placed within them expanding their reach and increasing their profits, criminal records make pursuing many decent careers difficult, police and court resources are unnecessarily tied up by pursuing and prosecuting victimless ‘crimes’, public mistrust and disrespect for our legal system, police, and government is increased, which can be devastating to our country.

    Prohibition is also very expensive, though, a cash cow for a number of powerful groups such as those related to law enforcement and the prison industry. These organizations have powerful lobbies and influence that perpetuate a failed drug policy through ignorance, fear, disinformation and misinformation. This ensures an endless supply of lucrative contracts and grants from the government and its taxpayers to support their salaries, tools of the trade, and other expenses. Cash, property and other assets from civil forfeiture laws also significantly fatten their coffers while often violating civil rights.

    America was built on the principles of freedom and liberty. In some cases there are extreme circumstances that warrant intervention with criminal law. In the case of mind-altering drugs we have already set this precedent with alcohol. Cannabis is less harmful than alcohol to the consumer and especially to others. If we are to have justice, then the penalties for using, possessing and selling cannabis should be no worse than those of alcohol.

  • “Anti-legalization group Project SAM told followers in an email to donate and call the White House before the STATES Act unleashed a drug epidemic.”

    Right, cuz that tired old hyperbole you guys have been screaming for years has totally come to pass in states that have legalized.

  • lovingc

    Trump can not be trusted at all. Kim will find this out when it is too late.
    One question how have these bills been getting to a vote? Did they lock Pete Sessions in a closet so he could not block another vote? This one and Grassly have been the human road blocks to the will of the people.

    • Jeff Johnson

      Believe me, if anyone is playing anyone, it’s Un playing Trump. He can’t be trusted either.

    • JD is back

      Kim is banking on it.

  • Steve Billings

    “So Far, So Good, So

    While Trump’s alleged “deal” with Senator Cory Gardener – Agreeing to sign a bill protecting the
    Cannabis industry in legal states in return for giving Jeff Sessions a more
    free hand in confirming federal court appointees, can certainly be viewed as at
    least a positive sign, in the practical application of today’s reality it is
    largely ingenious and barely more than a blip, here’s why:

    Even if Trump were to have
    every genuine intention of making good on his promise to sign such a bill, (An enormous
    “if” given his penchant for constantly lying his ass off even if the truth
    sounds good.) it would still be up to the legislature to take the first step by
    actually delivering such a bill to his desk.
    So, let’s take a look at the roadblocks to that.

    Congressman Pete Sessions (R-TX, and no
    relation to Jeff.) currently holds the position of Chairman Of The House Rules Committee, and as such, he has the sole
    and final say as to which bills are allowed onto the floor for discussion and
    which, no matter how important and beneficial are stopped cold and left to
    languish. While the two Sessions may not
    be related in the genealogical sense, when it comes to prohibition they are
    even closer than blood – and twice as thick.
    Thus far he has taken great delight in slamming the brakes on every last
    one. Until Pot-hater Pete is no longer
    in a position to say what makes it to the floor and what doesn’t the real-world
    chances of any such bills ever making it to committee, let alone the oval
    office are East of slim and West of none. Even if both Sessions were to be removed from
    the equation entirely (pinch me!) the gauntlet of obstructionism remaining in
    the House and Senate would be almost insurmountable.

    is not surprising to anyone familiar with the situation and Trump least of all.
    He has known this from the very
    beginning, so placating a huge and growing segment of the voting population by
    making a promise he knows he will almost certainly never even be tested on is
    even easier than lying and flip-flopping and we all know how accomplished he is
    at that!

    Regardless of how things play out, he will NOT
    be going down in history as the “Pot
    President”. The industry was already
    far too well established for that before Trump, and both its progress and its
    growing pains will continue long after the ash of his administration has been
    sucked into the bong-bowl of history. In
    the meantime, keep calm smoke a joint and carry on – but sleep with one eye
    open, most used car salesmen are philanthropists compared with this lot!

  • JD is back

    Don yer amor. We’s gots windmills ahead!