Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Sullivan joins Murkowski is support of marijuana states' rights bill

Alaska’s two Republican U.S. senators have announced their support of a bipartisan bill to ensure the ability of states to regulate legal marijuana industries.

The Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act was originally co-authored by Sens. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, and Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts.

The bill looks into a number of areas in which state and federal marijuana laws conflict while also containing a number of safeguards to ensure states, territories and tribes continue to regulate marijuana safely.

“We’ve come together — lawmakers from both sides of the aisle — to offer a state-based solution to areas where state and federal marijuana laws are in conflict, including issues relating to production, sale, distribution, enforcement and longstanding challenges surrounding banking and the lack of access to financial institutions for marijuana-related businesses,” Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan said in a statement.

Sullivan was one of several Republican senators who did not express support for last year’s repeal of the Cole Memorandum, a federal policy put into place under former President Barack Obama that added a level of separation between federal and state marijuana policies. The policy advised federal attorneys to avoid prosecuting marijuana offenses in states where the substance was legalized, including Alaska, Washington and Colorado.

“Months ago, I stated that the repeal of the Cole Memorandum could be the impetus necessary for Congress to find a permanent legislative solution to these issues,” Sullivan said. “I believe the STATES Act is that solution: one that provides safeguards and a level of regulatory certainty for marijuana enforcement while also protecting Alaskans and the rights of the state of Alaska.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski has also long been a supporter of states’ rights with regard to the marijuana industry.

“Over the past several years, those which have legalized marijuana, whether for medical or broader purposes, have been subjected to conflicting federal policies which have undermined the effectiveness of their regulatory and tax regimes,” Murkowski said. “While one year, the federal government acquiesces with state regimes, the next year it asserts that marijuana is illegal, regardless of what state law might say.”

Murkowski added that the bill introduced recently solves a lot of those issues.

“This important legislation brings the policy swing to an end by saying unequivocally that the states have supremacy when it comes to marijuana regulation,” Murkowski said. “No state will be forced to accept marijuana enterprises, but those states that choose to legalize will be freed of federal interference.”

If passed, the bill would amend the Controlled Substances Act to state that, as long as states and tribes comply with a limited number of basic safeguards, the Act’s provisions would no longer apply to any person in compliance with state or tribal laws on marijuana activities.

The bill would also:

• Clarify that state-compliant financial transactions do not qualify as trafficking and do not result in proceeds of an unlawful transaction.

• Remove industrial hemp from the list of controlled substances.

• Prohibit the distribution of marijuana at transportation safety facilities, such as rest areas and truck stops.

• Prohibit the distribution or sale of marijuana to people younger than 21 except for medical purposes.

By:  Erin Granger
Source: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner