01 Apr Proposed Bill Will Block Federal Government from Enforcing Marijuana Laws
One of the issues surrounding the questions of marijuana legality is the disconnect between federal and state laws. Cannabis is still a Schedule 1 drug. This means that even in states like California, which have legalized recreational marijuana, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) can, and does, still engage in enforcement actions.
Earlier this year, a bipartisan group of Congressmen introduced legislation to end this discrepancy.
The House bill, known as the “Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States” (“STATES”) Act would amend the Controlled Substances Act to prevent federal law enforcement agencies from enforcing federal prohibitions on marijuana in states where it is legal. Several Senators have also introduced a mirroring act.
Benefits of Decreased Federal Enforcement
In states where marijuana is legal, businesses have been allowed to grow and thrive. Access to tax deductions and banking give local companies competitive economic advantages, creating job growth. However, uncertainties regarding the discrepancies between federal and state enforcement can make it difficult for organizations to grow.
Although it is an exciting time for many businesses to enter into the developing marijuana industry, there are concerns about the lack of security – after all, business owners are still acting in violation of federal law, and could face serious enforcement actions.
Some Federal Authority Remains
Under the proposed legislation, the federal government will retain authority in certain areas. Specifically, the DEA will still be able to conduct enforcement actions against people who:
marijuana in states where marijuana is still illegal for medicinal or recreational use.
Additionally, the federal government would retain enforcement abilities against individuals or organizations selling marijuana to minors under the age of 18.
Other Pending Federal Legislation
The STATES Act and its Senate counterpart are not the only pending legislation pushing the federal government toward increased legalization.
In February, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced a bill aptly numbered S. 420, which would have the DEA removed marijuana from the controlled substances list, while still barring its sale in states that have not yet legalized it. H.B. 420, introduced in January by Representative Earl Bluemenauer (D-OR), would treat marijuana like alcohol.
The 2018 Farm Bill also made great strides toward cannabis legalization. The bill federally legalized hemp, allowing the plant to be grown and transported across state lines.
These actions are all part of the lawmakers’ strategy to erode the discrepancies between current federal prohibitions and state laws that are increasingly working toward marijuana legalization. Other proposals include allowing banks to provide loans to businesses in the industry, as well as increasing access to marijuana for researchers.
This article does not provide legal advice. If you are interested in understanding the relationship between state and federal marijuana laws and policy, speak with our cannabis law and regulation attorneys today. You can contact Heerde Blum LLP online or by phone at (212) 920-5858 or (310) 620-7172.