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We may be getting closer.

Today, Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) introduced legislation that would include a long-overdue amendment to the Controlled Substances Act such that those acting in compliance with an adult-use state regulatory will not be in violation of the CSA.

The “Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act” would shield those who comply with a state regulatory scheme from federal prosecution and asset forfeiture for possession, manufacturing, distribution and dispensing of marijuana.  Each state’s regulatory scheme needs to abide by a few federal priorities in order to qualify for this protection.  Among them:

  • No sale or distribution of marijuana to persons under 21 (other than for medical purposes).
  • No persons under age 18 can work for any marijuana business.
  • The bill retains CSA Section 417 (prohibition on endangering human life while manufacturing a controlled substance).
  • The bill prohibits the distribution of marijuana at transportation safety facilities such as rest areas and truck stops.

Perhaps the most impactful portion of this legislation – if it were to pass into law – would be the declaration that financial transactions involving marijuana in a state where it is legal could transpire without federal interference or prohibition.  In other words, if your marijuana business is in compliance with your state’s marijuana laws, you’re entitled to use a bank account like any other business.

Gardner, a staunch Republican who is as far right on the political spectrum as Warren is left, highlighted the hypocrisy inherent in a system where governments bank marijuana taxes, but the businesses that pay those taxes cannot. “The City of Denver, the State of Colorado can collect taxes, Massachusetts businesses can collect taxes, they can take it to the bank. But if you’re in the [marijuana] business, if you work for the business, you can’t get a bank loan or set up a bank account because of the concern over the conflict of the state and federal law,” he said.

Warren echoed Gardner’s sentiment.

“These archaic laws don’t just hurt individual people,” she said.  “They also prevent businesses in the marijuana business from getting access to banking services. That forces a multibillion-dollar industry to operate all in cash. That’s bad for business and bad for safety.”

Finally, the bill would also exempt Industrial Hemp from the definition of “marihuana” under the CSA. In addition to Warren and Gardner, a bipartisan version of this bill in the House is also being introduced.