Congress is making progress on federal cannabis legalization

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Congress may finally be taking action on two integral measures for federal cannabis reform.

The chairman for the House Rules Committee has vowed to achieve a full House vote for the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act (S.3032) in the next “several weeks.”

The STATES Act is the leading effort steering federal cannabis legalization in the right direction.

In addition to this, the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act was approved by the House Financial Services Committee at the end of last month.

Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act

The STATES Act would amend the Controlled Substances Act to ensure that federal laws related to cannabis activities no longer apply to people who meet certain criteria. 

Support is growing for the STATES Act in the House. House Rules Committee Chairman James McGovern (D-MA) made this clear last week, when he made his pledge to push the measure through the House in the very near future.

With the act in place, individual states would be legally allowed to regulate the plant as they wish, minus the risk of federal interference. States that do not choose to legalize cannabis, on the other hand, will keep prohibition firmly in place.

Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act

On the morning of March 28 in Washington D.C., the House Financial Services Committee approved the SAFE Banking Act with a bipartisan vote of 45–15. The vote results emerged after lawmakers spent hours contemplating the measure the previous day.

The SAFE Banking Act would prevent financial institutions from being penalized for providing state-regulated cannabis companies with banking services. Now, the bill must be considered by the full House.

Meanwhile, its supplementary measure is trapped in the Senate, due to the chair of the Senate banking committee obstructing its passage.

“We will guide it to the House floor for a vote,” McGovern explained during an interview with Boston Herald Radio. “I think it will pass with an overwhelming vote—Democrats and I think a lot of Republicans as well. If we have a strong bipartisan vote that will increase the pressure on the Senate to do something.”

Two years ago, a premature version of the SAFE Banking Act was submitted for review in the Senate by Sen. Jeff Merkeley (D-OR). While it did receive a hearing in 2017, the measure did not receive a vote.

Longtime advocate for federal cannabis legalization, Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), praised the latest victorious vote.

“This is the most significant step we’ve seen so far toward addressing our outdated federal [cannabis] policies,” he stated. “We’ve actually gone through the process, fully debated, and seen broad bipartisan support.”