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

President Donald Trump said he supported the STATES Act Friday. (AP File Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
President Donald Trump said he supported the STATES Act Friday. (AP File Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

President Donald Trump chimed in Friday morning on pending plans to end the federal war on marijuana in legalization states.

Speaking to a gaggle of reporters on his way to a summit in Canada, Trump reiterated his support for a states’ rights solution to the federal–state marijuana policy conflict. Speaking on US Sen. Corey Gardner’s newly introduced STATES Act, Trump said, “I support Gardner. I know exactly what he’s doing. We’re looking at it. But I probably will end up supporting that, yes.”

President Trump’s comments were but one of many after Gardner (R-CO) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced the bipartisan bill Thursday to end federal marijuana enforcement in legalization states.

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President Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions told Colorado Public Radio that he did not get to weigh in on the White House’s talks with Gardner and said cannabis remains federally illegal. “I was not a participant in the meetings he had at the White House,” Sessions said. “We are not guaranteeing—and cannot guarantee—persons who use or distribute marijuana are protected from federal prosecution.”

As expected, lobbyists for state and federal narcotics officers came out against the bill. The National Narcotics Officers’ Associations’ Coalition (NNOAC) in Washington, DC, stated in a letter to the White House on Thursday that the proposed STATES Act “attempts to encourage more drug use in America.”

The NNOAC’s statement is co-signed by powerful, unionized public employee groups: National Sheriffs’ Association, Major County Sheriffs’ Association, Major Cities Chiefs Association, National Narcotics Officers’ Associations’ Coalition, National High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Directors’ Association, and Law Enforcement Action Network.

The narcotics officers’ group also said state-level legalization in nine states is fueling a black market in others.

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In response, critics of federal prohibition say ending the failed US policy solves the problem of interstate cannabis commerce by regulating it.

“If every state were to start regulating marijuana similarly to alcohol, illegal marijuana trafficking would be about as prevalent as bootlegging moonshine.”
Mason Tvert, Marijuana Policy Project

Cannabis law reform leader and Marijuana Policy Project spokesperson Mason Tvert responded to the NNOAC in an email: “Not surprisingly, the guys who get paid to fight illegal marijuana cultivation and distribution are fighting to keep all marijuana cultivation and distribution illegal,” he wrote.

Tvert continued: “They say they are concerned by illegal market activity, but they are fighting states’ efforts to replace that illegal market with one that is regulated and tightly controlled. If every state were to start regulating marijuana similarly to alcohol, illegal marijuana trafficking would be about as prevalent as bootlegging moonshine.”

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Cross-border marijuana flows predate legalization efforts by decades, Tvert noted. “There is significant demand for marijuana in every U.S. state. In those that have opted to legalize and regulate marijuana, that demand is largely being met by licensed, tax-paying businesses. In the states still clinging to prohibition, that demand will continue to be met by the underground market until they create a legal alternative.”

Tvert is also correct that federal drug war funding pays NNOAC members’ salaries. The federal High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program alone disburses more than $250 million per year to joint federal–state anti-drug task forces. Since 1988, the once-limited program has swollen to include all 50 states.

The NNOAC also claims legalization in Colorado has made residents less safe.

Gardner, a conservative Republican with roots in rural farming, rejected the NNOAC’s assessment. Stating in a video Thursday that he also rejected legalization at first, he said that “if the election were held today, I believe Colorado voters would vote by an even greater margin to move forward with legalization.”

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Moreover, he continued, “We have a number of states now that have this conflict, and it simply needs to be addressed.”

Polls this year support Gardner’s assessment.

We’ll have more on the STATES Act as it develops.