Governors call for Congress to pass STATES Act

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Governors call for Congress to pass STATES Act

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Thor Benson / Cannabis News Box Contributor

A dozen governors are now calling for Congress to pass the STATES Act. The bill, which was introduced by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Cory Gardner (D-Colo.), would make it so cannabis is no longer illegal at the federal level and would allow states to legalize cannabis if they choose to. This group of governors was led by Governors Charlie Baker (R-Mass.) and Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.).

“The STATES Act is…about respecting the authority of states to act, lead and respond to the evolving needs and attitudes of their citizens,” the governors wrote in a letter. “We ask that Congress recognize and respect our states’ efforts by supporting and passing the STATES Act.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren applauded this effort, saying it’s “long past time to pass this bipartisan bill to protect our states, territories, and tribal nations as they implement their own marijuana laws.” Gardner noted that 97 percent of Americans now live in a state that has some form of legal cannabis and that it’s time for federal laws to change.

Though passing this bill would be a major step for legalization advocates, it wouldn’t go as far as many would like to see a legalization bill go. Many believe a legalization bill should do more to repair the damage done by decades of cannabis prohibition.

“Allowing states to determine their own policies without the threat of federal interference is definitely a big step in the right direction, and could help spur some reticent states to start pursuing their own cannabis policy reforms,” Morgan Fox, media relations director for the National Cannabis Industry Association, told Cannabis News Box. “However, there would still be much work to do in order to promote state and federal expungement of cannabis-related criminal records, ensure equity in the industry, create community reinvestment programs, and other tools to help repair some of the harms caused by prohibition.”

Fox said he doesn’t believe Congress will vote on this issue during this session, but he’s hopeful that the topic will at least be debated so the idea can be moved forward. He said that no single bill will completely fix the problems caused by the War on Drugs.

“Systemic problems in the criminal justice system won’t be fixed by addressing just this one single area, though sensible reforms can help remove a major weapon in the drug war arsenal,” Fox said. “And no amount of restorative measures can fully undo the damage—some things cannot be restored or replaced, especially the lives that have been lost due to decades of draconian policies and enforcement. However, we have an opportunity to help ensure that the people most impacted by prohibition are made as whole as possible and have access to the opportunities created by regulating cannabis.”