STATES Act Would Exempt Legal Cannabis from Controlled Substances Act 

Cannabis Industry Alert

June 18, 2018

On June 7, Senators Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Cory Gardner, R-Colo., introduced a bill that would permit states to pass their own marijuana laws without interference from the federal government. The bill, called the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act (“STATES” Act), is available here.

The bill is a bipartisan response to the steps taken by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to reverse Obama-era protections for cannabis businesses that are operating in compliance with state cannabis laws. See our prior Alert on this topic here.

The STATES Act exempts legal state cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, leaving it to states to legalize and regulate cannabis or to prohibit cannabis in the state. The bill would amend the Controlled Substances Act to carve out an exception for any person acting in compliance with state law relating to the manufacture, production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, or delivery of marijuana. The bill would also create an exception for industrial hemp. The bill would prohibit the sale of marijuana to people under 21 years old, even if in compliance with state law, except for sales to those younger than 21 for medicinal use. The bill would also prohibit distribution of marijuana at transportation facilities, such as rest stops and truck stops.

If signed into law, the STATES Act could improve cannabis business’ ability to secure traditional bank financing.  The STATES Act would be applicable to the District of Columbia, US territories, and federally recognized tribes.

It is not yet clear whether President Trump will support this bill, but he did make favorable comments concerning the bill in an exchange with reporters last week.

House sponsors of the bill include Dave Joyce, R-Ohio, Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., Ken Buck, R-Colo., Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., Jared Polis, D-Colo., and Barbara Lee, D-Calif. The sponsor memorandum summarizing the benefits of the STATES Act is available here.

Marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I controlled substance by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, and as such it remains a federal crime to grow, sell and/or use marijuana. Any content contained herein is not intended to provide legal advice to assist with violation of any state or federal law.


Heidi R. Schwartz


(215) 665-2799

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If you want to learn more about the issues discussed in this Alert, please contact a member of Cozen O'Connor's Cannabis Industry Team