US Congress Could Pass Game-Changing Bill That Protects Pot From Feds By Next Year
The STATES Act, an important piece of cannabis legislation, could actually pass next year – changing lives of millions of Americans in the process.
The bill, which stands for The Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act, was proposed by Senators Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, and Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts in June. Should it be passed, it would legalize the ownership, manufacture, and selling of cannabis under federal law in states where cannabis has already been legalized for recreational purposes. The restrictions would be little; as long as states don’t allow cannabis to be sold to individuals below 21 or sell it at places like rest areas, then states would pretty much be able to do what they want with cannabis.
Last Friday, Senators David Joyce, R-Ohio, and Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, spoke at a Washington conference hosted by the National Cannabis Bar Association at the George Washington University. They confirmed that the bill could pass, but not anytime soon. “I think it is a longshot something happens in the remaining days of this Congress,” says Blumenauer.
“The public is fed up,” Blumenauer said. “Cannabis is going to be a significant issue in dozens of races around the country.”
Joyce agrees that it’s high time the bill moves forward, and that “it’s time Congress gets out of the way.”
“I believe this is a states’ rights issue. States have made it available medically. People should be able to receive it, and we should do more studies on it,” Joyce added.
“I think it is possible even if the Republicans retain control, the dam breaks,” said Blumenauer, also saying that it’s “inevitable” that Republicans will soon start co-sponsoring cannabis bills. He also believes that should the Democrats take over the House of Representatives by November, it would have a great positive impact on the process. “If we take back the house, I guarantee there will be committee hearings,” he says. “Once we get hearings, I think the dominoes will fall very quickly,” Blumenauer said. “I do think the next 12 months could be ‘game over,’ if we get the right results in November.”
The passing of the bill would be monumental in paving the way for many other developments in cannabis. For one, it legalizes industrial hemp, a crop that has been federally prohibited for far too long now. If hemp were legalized, it could be used as an economically lucrative and environmentally sustainable solution for the manufacture of fiber, fuel, food, and of course, medicine.
“I agree that we are about to turn a corner,” says Joyce. “Given the opportunity in the next Congress, they will do what they need to do for their communities.”
The lawmakers say that political support for cannabis is already strong, and any proposals that help solve the problems of cannabis legalization should be able to see progress from Congress. “Most people want legalization, at least for medical purposes. That’s why I think we will see successes on the fall ballot,” says Blumenauer. “There is no downside for a candidate who embraces it.”
Opposition Of The STATES Act
It won’t be surprising to see the Drug Enforcement Agency, police unions, sheriffs’ and police chiefs’ associations, and Departments of Justice and Treasury resisting the progression of the STATES Act. After all, these are the very same figures that have raised strong opinions about similar efforts in the past.
Limitations Of The STATES Act
The bill would mean significant progress to the legal cannabis industry, albeit leaving much room for improvement still. For example, if the act is passed, cannabis would still be a Schedule 1 substance together with heroin and cocaine. In the eyes of the federal government, it still has no medicinal value. The current issue with banking access faced by the cannabis industry would still be around, and any existing bank accounts that stem from the cannabis business may still face rejection or closure although the risk for this is significantly decreased should the bill be passed.
Keeping cannabis as a Schedule 1 substance would be a serious impediment to cannabis research, and it wouldn’t remove the obstacles that scientists have in studying the plant’s therapeutic value for life-threatening illnesses.
Another thing that’s vague is that it isn’t clear if medical cannabis consumers would then be covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act. And cannabis arrests would still go on in non-legalization states including Illinois, Florida, and New York.
Despite these, we can be content with the developments that the STATES Act could possibly bring, considering the existing problems with cannabis law in the country today.