2019 looks to become a milestone year for cannabis, as politicians and cannabis lobbyists move to destigmatize, decriminalize, and — in some cases — legalize the drug nationwide.
In New York, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently presented his plan to legalize recreational cannabis throughout the state. Democrat Tim Walz, the newly elected governor of Minnesota, wants his state to be the next to legalize. And in Rhode Island, Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo has conceded that it’s time for her state to move toward legalization, too.
All of that might explain why the Cannabis Trade Federation (CTF) has hired 15 cannabis lobbyists to take on its robust policy initiatives for the year ahead. According to The Hill, the lobbyists are charged with advancing the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act, a bipartisan bill written by Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), as well as Reps. David Joyce (R-Ohio) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.).
Most notably, the bill would amend the Controlled Substances Act, essentially permitting any business in compliance with state cannabis laws to exist and operate without having to worry about the feds knocking on their door.
Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was an especially vocal opponent of states’ rights regarding cannabis. Last summer, he didn’t say whether the Department of Justice had considered any enforcement actions that would compromise states’ legalization efforts.
“States have a right to set their own laws and will do so, and we will follow the federal law,” Sessions said at the time. He added that it was his personal view that “the American republic will not be better if there are marijuana sales on every street corner.”
With Sessions out and a new attorney general going through the confirmation process, just how legalization will play out in 2019 is anybody’s guess.
“The president has said he will sign [the STATES Act] into law,” Neal Levine, CEO of CTF, told The Hill. “So it’s the one piece of legislation from our intel that we think we have a legitimate chance to pass into law that would fundamentally address all of the major issues that the cannabis industry faces today.”
CTF launched in 2018, and Levine considers its expanding presence in the nation’s capital as part of “the cannabis industry growing up.”
“This is all part of the cannabis industry growing up, coming into the mainstream, acting like every other industry that’s out there,” he said. “This is just the natural part of our evolution.”