US Congress Considers Bill That Would Empower States To Set Cannabis Laws

Earlier this month a bill was introduced to the United States House of Representatives which, if approved, would mandate US federal agencies to respect the widely varying cannabis laws set by individual states.

While over thirty states have passed legislation making it legal to possess and/or sell cannabis for medical purposes—and with another eight states having legalized recreational use and sale as well—cannabis remains illegal at the federal level. The official position of the White House has traditionally been that because federal law supersedes state law, any cannabis businesses currently operating in the United States are doing so illegally, even if they adhere to the provisions of their local State law.

This has led to controversy in recent years as cannabis providers operating under the auspices of state laws are still threatened by raids from federal agencies. In December of 2014, the Obama administration passed a bill that removed the obligation for federal agencies to target cannabis offenses in states that have legalized medicinal marijuana. But despite this bill having been passed into law, federal agencies continue to raid cannabis businesses in states where medical use is legal, and the threat remains for shops in states where recreational use is legal.

That may be changing if recently introduced bill H.R.975, titled the “Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2017,” is approved by Congress. The new bill calls for an amendment to the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) pertaining to cannabis (or “marijuana” as it’s referred to in the CSA). If approved, the amendment would make the relevant subsection of the CSA “not apply to any person acting in compliance with state laws relating to the production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, or delivery of marihuana.”

That means in states where cannabis has been legalized at the state level, dispensaries and cannabis users would no longer have to fear being arrested and prosecuted by federal agencies as long as they adhere to the regulations set by their state law.

The new bill was introduced to the House by California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, but despite being introduced by a GOP member with the bipartisan support of over a dozen co-sponsors from both major parties, it faces the challenge of going against the narrative set by the White House. US Press Secretary Sean Spicer said in a recent statement that the Trump administration intends to respect individual State laws with regards to medical cannabis, but that recreational cannabis will continue to be prohibited.

This makes it likely Bill H.R.975 will need to be amended while in committee review, to apply only to medical cannabis, before it could be approved without garnering ire from the White House. But if the bill passes in either form, then for those to whom it applies, it would signal a change from being vulnerable to arrest from federal agents not required—but still able—to target them, to federal agents no longer having cannabis-related jurisdiction over them at all.

Currently the bill is being reviewed by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and is set to be voted on during the ongoing 2017-18 session of Congress.

– Scott Johnstone

Featured image via Wikipedia.

Source: Lift Cannabis