Senator fails in bid to include marijuana amendment in First Step Act

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The amendment was designed to help protect states’ rights

Colorado Senator Cory Gardner wanted to ensure that states were protected in the pending The First Step legislation that centers criminal justice. He introduced an amendment to the bill that would guarantee states could forge their own destinies regarding marijuana policies, but the attempt to have the amendment added to the bill has failed. Gardner isn’t dismayed and asserts that he “will not give up the fight.”

The amendment covered policies such as federal prosecution in states where legal cannabis is permitted and the removal of federal restrictions on banking. A procedural move by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a proponent of criminal justice reform, nixed the inclusion of the amendment, sending Gardner and other lawmakers back to the drawing board.

Gardner then tried to receive unanimous consent for the amendment, which would have forced it to be included. However, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley cut him off, calling the move a “backdoor to legalization.”

The stumble isn’t a concern for some in the marijuana industry. As Neal Levine, the CEO of the Cannabis Trade Federation, explains, “We’re the opposite of feeling defeated. We’re feeling energized. We just had a U.S. senator, who is in a leadership position in his party, say on the floor of Congress that he’s not going to give up this fight.”

Gardner has apparently spoken to President Trump about federal marijuana legislation and, according to a spokesman, the president “reiterated his support” for the bill. Trump added that he will sign it if it reaches his desk.