Gardner, Warren Marijuana Bill 'a Real Big Test, an Opportunity for Federalism'

Farmworkers inside a drying barn take down newly-harvested marijuana plants at Los Suenos Farms, America's largest legal open air marijuana farm, in Avondale, Colo., on Oct. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

WASHINGTON — Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) have teamed up to ensure that states’ rights triumph in marijuana regulation, and they may have President Trump’s support.


The bipartisan team introduced this week the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act to ensure that the 46 states that currently have laws permitting or decriminalizing marijuana or marijuana-based products — along with Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and a number of tribes — are protected after the Justice Department earlier this year scrapped Obama-era guidance that limited enforcement of federal drug laws in legal pot states.

The bill amends the Controlled Substances Act to ensure that its provisions no longer apply to entities legally operating under state or tribal laws. It also removes industrial hemp from the list of controlled substances. The legislation would enshrine marijuana prohibitions for users under the age of 21, excluding medical marijuana.

“Several months ago the president told me that he continues to hold the belief that he talked about during the campaign, that states are the ones who should make this decision,” Gardner told CNN on Thursday. “That was a belief that he reiterated today and I hope we can work with them to get that support for our legislation.”

“This is a bill that says the states are laboratories of democracy,” he added. “If the state decides — this isn’t the federal government changing the law at the local level, this is the state deciding to change its law and in that scenario then the federal government says ‘fine.’ States can be that laboratory of democracy. It will be allowed in that state. So this is a real big test, an opportunity for federalism.”


Appearing alongside Gardner, Warren said Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who maintains that marijuana is dangerous, “has made it clear exactly what the problem is.”

“And the problem is when state like Massachusetts or a state like Colorado legalizes the use of marijuana, it doesn’t change federal law. And so Jeff Sessions has made the statement that he intends to come in and enforce federal law under the circumstances where Massachusetts, Colorado and other states around the country have already changed their law locally, that not only creates a risk for people who buy and a risk for people who sell, it creates other crazy implications,” Warren said. “So these businesses that are growing up that sell marijuana right now can’t put their receipts, the cash that comes in into a federally insured bank because there are federal laws that say if the source of the money is illegal, which this would be under federal law, you can’t put the money in a bank.”

“There are all kinds of tax crazy implications to this. So what Senator Gardner and I did is say look, let’s just do a law that says if the states have acted on this, whatever level they’ve acted, medicinal marijuana, recreational, anything in between, if the states have enacted it, if the territories have enacted it, if the tribes have enacted it, then the federal government is going to recede and say your law is the law that controls within your jurisdiction.”


Asked outside the White House today if he supports the bill, Trump replied, “I really do. I support Senator Gardner. I know exactly what he’s doing. We’re looking at it. But I probably will end up supporting that, yes.”

Companion legislation was introduced in the House by Reps. David Joyce (R-Ohio) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.).

“If the people of these states have decided to provide help for those veterans and others suffering from pain and other health issues, we should allow them access without government interference,” said Joyce.

“For too long the senseless prohibition of marijuana has devastated communities, disproportionately impacting poor Americans and communities of color. Not to mention, it’s also wasted resources and stifled critical medical research,” said Blumenauer. “It’s past time to put the power back in the hands of the people. Congress must right this wrong.”

Endorsements include the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans for Tax Reform.


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