On June 7, 2018, Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act (“the STATES Act” or “the Act”) in the Senate. That same day, Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and David Joyce (R-OH) introduced a companion bill in the House of Representatives. Notably, the Act enjoys bipartisan sponsorship in both chambers.
The STATES Act would amend the Controlled Substances Act to exempt from its reach any person acting in compliance with state laws relating to the manufacture, production, possession, distribution, and delivery of marijuana. To alleviate financial concerns regarding marijuana sales, the Act states clearly that conforming transactions do not constitute trafficking and do not generate proceeds from an unlawful transaction. Additionally, the Act retains the prohibition against employing persons under the age of eighteen in any marijuana operation, and prohibits the sale of marijuana to persons under the age of twenty-one.
The day after its introduction, Governor Phil Murphy and eleven other governors from both parties signed a letter to congressional leaders calling for the Act’s passage. In the letter, the governors noted that the current “one-size-fits-all federal prohibition is incongruent with reality” and “impedes states’ ability to be effective laboratories of democracy.” The governors went on to say that “[t]he STATES Act is not about whether marijuana should be legal or illegal; it is about respecting the authority of states to act, lead and respond to the evolving needs and attitudes of their citizens.”
While the likelihood of the passage of the STATES Act in Congress, as well as President Trump’s signing it into law, remains uncertain, the Act nonetheless represents a watershed moment in lawmakers’ changing approach to this issue.