by: Melissa Kuipers Blake
The 10th Amendment to the Bill of Rights, established in 1791, created the concept of federalism, wherein the federal government possesses only those powers delegated to it by the U.S. Constitution and all remaining powers are reserved for the states. Conversations about the 10th Amendment are often centered around gun control, same sex marriage and health care, to name a few. But since 1996, when California first legalized marijuana for medical use, marijuana advocates have more frequently and firmly held the hand of the 10th Amendment, and such efforts are now gaining serious traction on Capitol Hill.
National polling indicates that 60 percent of Americans favor marijuana legalization, and nearly three-quarters oppose federal interference in state cannabis laws. Thirty-three states have legalized marijuana for medical use, and another 10, plus the District of Columbia, have authorized recreational consumption. Canada is fully legal. Mexico is about to be. And once again, the U.S. is giving up market share of a massive industry — recall the boom of Canadian whiskey during American Prohibition — and allowing businesses in other countries to be first to market where the U.S. potentially had first- mover advantage for decades.
Will the federal government finally act to x the incompatibility between state and federal law on marijuana? Republican Sen. Cory Gardner hopes so. Gardner on April 4 introduced the STATES Act, an expanded version of the measure he introduced last year. He and his Democratic colleague Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts hope this will be the year that Congress finally catches up with 33 state laws that not only have legalized cannabis but have established robust, highly regulated markets for the product that have produced billions in tax revenue in less than a decade. Colorado alone has collected $968 million in marijuana tax revenue since Jan. 1, 2014, and is poised to surpass the $1 billion mark before the end of 2019.
The STATES Act is gorgeous in its simplicity and is in direct harmony with the 10th Amendment. Plainly stated, the bill keeps marijuana on the Schedule 1 list of controlled substances but deems the Controlled Substances Act inapplicable to marijuana businesses acting in compliance with state marijuana laws. Furthermore, and most uniquely, the STATES Act changes absolutely nothing in states where marijuana is not yet legal. Read: nothing changes in the South and parts of the Midwest where state legislatures and governors have been slower to embrace the legalization of cannabis.