District of Columbia- An effort to prevent federal officials from prosecuting cannabis businesses and consumers in compliance with state laws received support from President Trump on Friday.
The president commented on a bill proposed by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) earlier this week at a press gaggle with reporters just as he was preparing to board a helicopter on his way to the G-7 summit in Canada.
Although the Trump administration has not signaled support for cannabis reform previously, the president now seems to be on board with Gardner.
“I support Sen. Gardner,” Trump told reporters in response to a question about the bill. “I know exactly what he’s doing. We’re looking at it. But I probably will end up supporting that, yes.”
If passed, the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Entrusting States (STATES) Act would prevent the Department of Justice (DOJ) from prosecuting any cannabis business that is operating within state law.
“The federal government is closing its eyes and plugging its ears while 46 states have acted. The bipartisan STATES Act fixes this problem once and for all by taking a states’ rights approach to the legal marijuana question. The bipartisan, commonsense bill ensures the federal government will respect the will of the voters–whether that is legalization or prohibition–and not interfere in any states’ legal marijuana industry,” Gardner said in a statement yesterday.
Warren cited criminal justice reform as a major part of why she would like to see the STATES Act enacted.
“Outdated federal marijuana laws have perpetuated our broken criminal justice system, created barriers to research, and hindered economic development,” Warren said.
Support for legalized cannabis has grown steadily in recent years. In a recent Gallop poll, 65% of Americans said that smoking cannabis was “morally acceptable.”
Some see Trump’s comments as yet another strike against Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Trump has publically voiced his frustration over Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation.
Earlier this year, Sessions rescinded the Cole Memo, an informal order that encouraged DOJ officials not to prosecute businesses that complied with state regulations.
Since Sessions’ move, many have expected a crackdown from the Justice Department on legal cannabis. Momentum for Congressional action has been building since. The STATES Act would accomplish the same goal but would be backed by an act of Congress and could not be ignored by DOJ officials.
The STATES Act would not reschedule cannabis, and federal penalties would still remain for those in violation of state law or for individuals in states that have not legalized cannabis. Currently, cannabis is still a Schedule I narcotic, viewed by federal officials as being just as dangerous as heroin and LSD.