Colorado senator introduces amendment to protect marijuana industry

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The legislation would ensure states have the right to control marijuana within their borders

Colorado Senator Cory Gardner is looking to the future of federal marijuana legislation. He has introduced an amendment to the First Step Act (FSA), a congressional bill on criminal justice reform, that would protect U.S. states, territories, federally recognized tribes and Washington, D.C. and allow them to legally develop the best practices for governing marijuana within their territories.

In a statement on the amendment, Gardner explained, “Saturday marked the 227th anniversary of the ratification of the 10th Amendment to the Constitution. It says that ‘[t]he 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 can think of no better way to honor that milestone than to pass the bipartisan STATES Act, and I can think of no better legislation to attach the STATES Act to than the First Step Act. While we are debating criminal justice reform, we need to address the threat of prosecution by the federal government for people in Colorado that are operating legal businesses under state law. And it’s not just Colorado: 47 states now allow some form of legalized cannabis.

This year Oklahoma, Utah, and Missouri changed their laws to join 30 other states that allow medical marijuana. Recent polls show around 65% of the country support legalization and 93% support medical marijuana. The people are speaking. The states are leading. It’s time for Congress to act to protect states’ rights. I call on my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to take up and pass this important amendment today.”

The FSA is designed to ease punitive federal prison sentences. While the amendment and the FSA may not appear to have much in common on the surface, some of the underlying components of the act are directly tied to marijuana as they seek to reverse the punishment associated with marijuana possession sentences.

The amendment has certain limitations that would still override a state’s authority. For example, any activity that endangers human life while manufacturing marijuana would still be illegal at the federal level and no one under the age of 18 would be able to be employed in marijuana operations. Additionally, the sale or distribution of marijuana to anyone under the age of 21 would remain illegal.