On Friday, June 8, President Trump signaled a possible change in his administration’s marijuana policy by voicing support for a bill that would withdraw the threat of federal prosecution in states in which marijuana is legal. The bill is sponsored by Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Gardner. The bill is called the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act.
In remarks to members of the press gathered at the White House before Trump left for the G7 summit in Canada, Trump expressed support for Gardner, a fellow Republican, and said that “I will probably end up” supporting Gardner’s bill. Gardner’s state, Colorado, currently has a marijuana market worth about $1.5 to $2 billion. If the risk of federal prosecution is eliminated, that value could increase.
Trump’s words, however, are at odds with those of his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who as recently as May told the U.S. Senate that he had no choice but to enforce federal law. Sessions has also rescinded the Cole memo, which is the Obama administration’s policy statement allowing for federal drug enforcement to allow for a “hands off” approach regarding the prosecution of the marijuana industry in legal states.
Senators Reply to Trump
Both Senators were quick to voice their hope that the Trump administration would support their bill. The bill would not legalize marijuana at the federal level, but it would, as Gardner put it, allow states to choose their own destiny without the risk of a federal crackdown. Warren said the bill would “let states make their own decisions about dealing with marijuana,” and allow “the federal government to recede, and let states take the lead.” Gardner also pointed out that the bill is in accord with federalism, which is the political framework of the United States. The Tenth Amendment supports federalism, stating, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
“I’ve talked to dozens and dozens of parents whose children are suffering from some form of epilepsy who have been able to receive treatment from some form of medical marijuana,” he said, noting that with treatment of cannabis products, the number of seizures the children have experienced has been dramatically reduced.
Warren also pointed out that because federally insured banks cannot deal with money made illegally, state marijuana businesses must use cash to conduct their business, which is “dangerous and dumb.” Although the bill would not legalize marijuana at the federal level, it is promised to provide some banking protection for marijuana businesses. According to Gardner, no fewer than forty-six of the fifty states (and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico) have some form of legalization in place or under consideration.
Trump has been known to change his mind, however. NBC quoted Mike Liszewski of the Drug Policy Alliance as expressing doubt about whether Trump will follow through on his remarks. Trump’s Justice Department has yet to reinstate the Cole memo, let alone make a major policy shift. And for the STATES Act to pass Congress, it will likely need a sustained effort from the White House.
What do you think: Will Trump follow through on his remarks and push Congress to pass the bill? Leave a comment below.