Gardner Heads Bipartisan Effort To Give States Final Say In Pot Legalization

Jun 8, 2018

Updated 3:00 pm Friday, June 8, 2018

A group of 12 governors — including Colorado’s — urged congressional leaders on Friday to pass the STATES Act, calling it an opportunity to restore balance between federal and state powers when it comes to regulating marijuana.

Gov. John Hickenlooper called it “critical.”

“The federal government needs to provide states adequate space to self-govern,” he said. “The issue can no longer be avoided.”

President Donald Trump, speaking with reporters at the White House, said he would also support it.

“I support Sen. Gardner,” he said. “I know exactly what he’s doing, we’re looking at it, but I probably will end up supporting that, yes.”

The original story continues below

New legislation introduced Thursday by Sens. Cory Gardner and Elizabeth Warren would legalize marijuana at the federal level for states that already allow use of the drug — like Colorado.

The Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act would allow states to take full reign when it comes to the legalization of marijuana, including use, production, possession and delivery, by amending the Controlled Substances Act.

It would not make it legal to smoke or sell pot in states that haven’t legalized it.

Gardner and Warren, along with co-sponsors Reps. David Joyce of Ohio and Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, said in a statement the new measure would give states the freedom to determine for themselves the best approach to regulating the drug.

Gardner added that it would reconcile a longstanding conflict between federal and state marijuana laws.

“Because of the one-size-fits-all federal prohibition, state decisions like this put Colorado and other states at odds with the federal government," he said. "The federal government is closing its eyes and plugging its ears while 46 states have acted.”

Many states, including Colorado, have laws permitting or decriminalizing different marijuana products. Legalization has given rise to the state’s booming pot industry, thousands of jobs and millions in state tax revenues.

But critics like Dr. Kevin Sabet, president of the nonprofit Smart Approaches to Marijuana, are calling the bill another free pass for “big marijuana.”

“We don't want to see the new ‘big tobacco,’ which is exactly what the new marijuana industry is becoming,” he said. “We definitely think that legalizing marijuana in this country is equivalent to commercializing marijuana and that has never turned out to be a good thing for the American people.”

The STATES Act would also change the definition of marijuana under federal law to exclude industrial hemp and prohibit the distribution of the drug at rest areas and truck stops.

The package comes six months after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions nixed an Obama-era policy that discouraged federal prosecutions in states that have legalized the drug.