Press Releases

DelBene Introduces Bill to Protect State Enforcement of Marijuana Laws

Today, Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (WA-01) reintroduced the State Marijuana And Regulatory Tolerance (SMART) Enforcement Act (H.R. 3534) to protect medical patients, recreational users and businesses in states that have legalized and regulated marijuana from being prosecuted now or in the future.

“My bill will fix the conflict between state and federal law by giving states effectively regulating marijuana themselves, such as Washington, a waiver from the Controlled Substances Act.” DelBene said. “It also resolves the banking issues currently forcing dispensaries to operate on an unsafe, all-cash basis. These waivers will ensure people in states that have different laws than the federal government on marijuana are protected from prosecution, provided they meet certain requirements, as more and more states work to regulate marijuana in their own borders. People in these states should not live in fear of the unpredictable actions of the Attorney General and Department of Justice.”

Video of DelBene speaking on the House floor can be found HERE.

Twenty-nine states and Washington, D.C., have legalized some form of marijuana. Of those, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Alaska, California, Massachusetts, Maine, Nevada and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational use of marijuana, while others have approved medical use of marijuana. And more are expected to vote on legalization in 2018. Yet, marijuana possession or use for any purpose is still prohibited under the federal Controlled Substances Act, leaving every participant in the state markets — including cancer patients — at risk of prosecution. Washington’s First District has more than a dozen state-licensed marijuana dispensaries. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has a long record of opposing marijuana reform.

States are currently unable to regulate as effectively as possible because they are hamstrung by federal preemption problems. The SMART Enforcement Act would fix this issue, while adhering to Obama-era U.S. Department of Justice guidance known as the Cole Memos on marijuana enforcement. The bill recognizes the shared role states have traditionally played in policing marijuana offenses, and authorizes a waiver from the Controlled Substances Act for states that implement robust regulatory regimes to address key federal priorities such as preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors, violence or use of firearms in cultivation and distribution of marijuana, and drugged driving. Additionally, this legislation would sunset all waivers after three years, allowing continued oversight and reevaluation of the success of this approach by Congress.

“According to a 2017 Quinnipiac national poll, 73 percent of Americans oppose the federal government interfering in state legal marijuana programs,” said Justin Strekal, NORML's Political Director. “The SMART Enforcement Act would give peace of mind to lawmakers, regulators, patients, consumers and the 123,000 Americans who now have jobs dependent on the normalization of the lawful marijuana market.”