Congress Reintroduces Bill to Protect State Cannabis Laws

Congresswoman Suzan DelBene reintroduced the State Marihuana and Regulatory Tolerance (SMART) Enforcement Act. H.R. 3534 would ban the federal government from prosecuting cannabis consumers in states that have legalized cannabis. It’s one of multiple proposals that are currently being introduced to block the federal government from meddling with state cannabis laws.

Currently, states are unable to regulate effectively, including having access to banking, because of preemptive moves by the federal government. The SMART Enforcement Act would bridge the gap and adhere to the Obama-era U.S. Department of Justice guidance known as the Cole memo.

Congresswoman DelBene can be seen announcing the proposal on the House floor. “My bill will fix the conflict between state and federal law by giving states effectively regulating marijuana themselves, such as Washington, a waiver from the Controlled Substances Act.” DelBene stated in a press release. “It also resolves the banking issues currently forcing dispensaries to operate on an unsafe, all-cash basis. These waivers will ensure people in states that have different laws than the federal government on marijuana are protected from prosecution, provided they meet certain requirements, as more and more states work to regulate marijuana in their own borders. People in these states should not live in fear of the unpredictable actions of the Attorney General and Department of Justice.”

The bill would authorize waivers from the Controlled Substances Act, allowing states with strong regulatory schemes to have exemption. It would also sunset all waivers after three years, allowing more oversight and reevaluation of the approach by Congress.

Twenty-nine states plus Washington, D.C. have legalized cannabis in one form or another. By a ratio of six to one, Americans overwhelmingly say that states should be able to govern themselves concerning the consumption and sale of cannabis in a 2017 market research poll. A similar competing sanctuary bill is underway in California. AB-1578 would block federal interference in California’s state regulatory laws.

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