State lawmakers are calling on the federal government to change its drug laws to let states experiment with marijuana and hemp policy.
The National Conference of State Legislatures, the de facto bipartisan group of lawmakers, passed a resolution at its annual meeting Thursday calling on the federal government to amend the Controlled Substances Act to authorize state marijuana laws and on the administration to keep its nose out of state pot policies.
“State lawmakers just sent a message to Congress that could not be any clearer,” said Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, which has been instrumental in the movement to legalize the drug for recreational use. “It’s time to end the federal prohibition of marijuana and let the states decide what policies work best for them.”
Resolutions passed at the meeting will guide the group’s federal advocacy in the year ahead. In order to be approved, the resolution had to earn majority support from three-fourths of the states in attendance at Thursday’s meeting in Seattle.
The resolution, introduced by New Hampshire state Rep. Renny Cushing, lays out the argument that with 23 states and D.C. having passed medical marijuana laws and four others — Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington — having approved marijuana for recreational use, it is time for the federal government to explicitly legalize those policy experiments.
It also points to the difficulty marijuana businesses have had in securing financing — due to banks fearful of violating federal laws — and the potential medical benefits as reason for the change in federal laws.
While lawmakers may disagree on easing existing law, they do agree that “states and localities should be able to set whatever marijuana and hemp policies work best to improve the public safety, health, and economic development of their communities,” the resolution concludes.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a 2016 presidential contender, recently said he would enforce federal drug laws in states that have legalized marijuana. However, some of his potential Republican opponents — like Sen. Ted Cruz and former Florida governor Jeb Bush — have said that despite their reservations about the laws themselves, they support states’ rights when it comes to passing and keeping them.