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Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Gardner’s Bipartisan Marijuana Bill Aimed at State’s Rights

07.11.2018

Last month, Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) proposed highly anticipated bipartisan legislation that would allow individual states to determine their own approaches to marijuana within their borders. This bill was introduced as an amendment to the Controlled Substances Act, and is aimed at protecting people who use marijuana in accordance with their local laws. Additionally, the bill eliminates industrial hemp – a non-psychoactive cousin of marijuana (cannabis sativa), which can be used to produce biodegradable plastics, textiles, clothing, and biofuel – from the Controlled Substances Act. The proposed amendment further provides that individuals growing, distributing, selling, or buying marijuana in compliance with applicable state laws are exempt from federal penalties for violating corresponding provisions of the Controlled Substances Act. While such an amendment would ensure that states are able to pursue legal marijuana without fear of federal interference, the amendment does not prevent the federal government from intervening where marijuana is transported across state lines, or where marijuana is being sold to persons under the age of 21. President Trump has indicated some level of support for this legislation and has expressed his willingness to sign the bill if passed by Congress.

In addition to the legislation proposed by Senators Warren and Gardner, Senator Chuck Schumer also introduced a bill that would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act altogether. Such a bill, if passed, would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, allowing states to determine their own marijuana laws free from federal pressure. The law would maintain federal law enforcement against marijuana trafficking to states choosing to maintain marijuana’s illegality. Senator Schumer’s bill, like that of Senators Warren and Gardner, does not require any accommodation on the part of employers for employee marijuana consumption. While some states have begun enacting laws providing for the reasonable accommodation of medicinal marijuana use, there are no accommodation provisions in either proposed federal law. Accordingly, Nebraska employers may continue enforcing their respective drug policies regardless of the proposed legislation.

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