DENVER – President Donald Trump on Friday said he “probably will end up supporting” the states’ rights marijuana bill, the STATES Act, unveiled Thursday by U.S. Sens. Cory Gardner and Elizabeth Warren.
Asked by the White House pool about the bill as he was about to depart to Quebec for the G-7 summit, Trump didn’t explicitly give the measure his blessing but hinted that he’d support it.
“I really do, I support Senator Gardner. I know exactly what he’s doing. We’re looking at it, but I probably will end up supporting that, yes,” Trump said.
Gardner, a Colorado Republican, said at a Thursday news conference announcing the new measure he’d spoken with President Donald Trump several times about it, including on Thursday before the two senators introduced it. He said in April that Trump had reassured him Colorado's programs were safe.
“As the president said in a conversation with me, we can’t go backward, we can only go forward,” Gardner said. “The ketchup’s not going back into the bottle, as the old saying goes.”
The STATES Act has several pillars that would change federal code to ensure that legal marijuana programs that comply with a basic series of rules stay intact.
It would amend the Controlled Substance Act so that any person acting in compliance with state or tribal law would no longer see most of the act’s provisions apply to them. It would also exclude industrial hemp from the federal definition of “marihuana” (the U.S. government’s term for marijuana) but would keep intact prohibitions on allowing people under age 18 to work in the industry and exchanging marijuana at transportation safety facilities.
The bill also contains language that says that financial transactions involving legal marijuana do not amount to trafficking or an unlawful transaction.
Four members of Congress from Colorado are backing the bill, and three of those four are original cosponsors.
Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Reps. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., and Ken Buck, R-Colo., are original cosponsors of the identical House and Senate measures. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., said he would be introducing the bill along with its sponsors in the House.
Gardner stopped by Denver7 Friday morning to further discuss the STATES Act, saying that it “really isn’t a partisan issue.”
“This really is a very simple, elegant solution. It’s a states’ rights bill. It’s federalism at its finest and it’s letting the states decide for themselves what we should be doing,” Gardner said. “If Colorado decides to change its mind and go back, it can. This just gives certainty and clarity to law enforcement and under the law to everyone that’s participating.”
And despite Trump’s quasi-endorsement Friday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who rescinded the Cole Memo in January and kicked off the states’ rights fight for states where marijuana is legal, told Colorado Public Radio at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver Friday that the state still wasn’t in the clear for the time being.
“I can’t guarantee that they are free from any consequences for an act that is contrary to U.S. law,” he told CPR’s Ryan Warner.
AG Jeff Sessions to #Colorado cannabis biz: “I can’t guarantee that they are free from any consequences for an act that is contrary to US law.” He adds, though, that Justice has higher priorities like violent crime and opioid abuse. Airs at 10a @ColoradoMatters @NewsCPR
— Ryan Warner (@cprwarner) June 8, 2018
The introduction of the STATES Act comes on the heels of months of work by most of Colorado’s Congressional delegation and members from other states where marijuana is legal to shore up state protections for the programs.