Alaska Delegation Supports Legislation to Protect States Rights

Ends Federal Enforcement of Prohibition in States That Have Reformed Marijuana Laws

U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski, Dan Sullivan, and Congressman Don Young, all R-Alaska, announced their support for legislation to protect states that have legalized marijuana. Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) reintroduced bipartisan legislation, The Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act, to remove the threat of federal intervention and prosecution in states that regulate marijuana use and sales. Representatives David Joyce (R-OH) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) reintroduced the STATES Act in the House. The bill aims to ensure that each state has the right to determine the best approach to marijuana regulation and enforcement within its borders.

“The STATES Act is a reasonable way to balance the interests of states that desire to regulate the use of marijuana, whether for medical or recreational purposes, and those that do not. It establishes that stringent state marijuana regulatory regimes, like those which exist in Alaska, have supremacy over federal drug control laws. At the same time, it does not impair the effectiveness of federal marijuana prohibitions in states that have elected not to legalize,” Senator Murkowski said. “By reinforcing that the states have supremacy when it comes to marijuana regulation, we are eliminating confusion, and more importantly empowering and protecting states’ rights.”

“The issue of marijuana legalization, particularly in states across the country that have made the decision to legalize, like Alaska, is an urgent matter of states’ rights,” said Senator Sullivan. “The STATES Act – legislation supported by lawmakers from both sides of the aisle – offers a state-based solution to areas where state and federal marijuana laws are in conflict, including issues relating to production, sale, distribution, and enforcement, and longstanding challenges surrounding banking and the lack of access to financial institutions for marijuana-related businesses. Ultimately, I believe that the STATES Act will not only provide safeguards and a level of regulatory certainty for marijuana enforcement, but it will also protect Alaskans and the rights of the State of Alaska.” 

“As Co-Chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus I’ve been supporting a states’ rights approach to cannabis policy for years, and it is high time Congress acts to get the Federal government out of the way,” said Congressman Don Young. “Frankly, our archaic laws urgently need to be reformed. I am proud to be cosponsoring the STATES Act because it not only helps defend states’ rights -- a central promise of our Constitution -- but protects the decision made by my constituents to legalize recreational marijuana in Alaska. As more states continue to reform their cannabis laws, the Federal government must keep up to provide stability to entrepreneurs, financial institutions, patients, and others. I am pleased that Alaska’s Congressional Delegation is now united on this issue, and I pledge to keep working with friends on both sides of the aisle to bring our laws into the future.”

Bill Details:

  • Amends the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) so that - as long as states and tribal nations comply with a few basic protections - its provisions no longer apply to any person acting in compliance with State or tribal laws relating to the manufacture, production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, or delivery of marijuana. 
  • Continues to apply the following federal criminal provisions under the CSA by prohibiting:
    • Endangerment of human life while manufacturing a controlled substance; and
    • Employment of persons under age 18 in marijuana operations.
  • Prohibits the distribution of marijuana at transportation safety facilities such as rest areas and truck stops.
  • Bars the distribution or sale of marijuana to persons under the age of 21 other than for medical purposes.
  • Instructs the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study on the effects of marijuana legalization on traffic safety, including whether states are able to accurately evaluate marijuana impairment, testing standards used by these states, and a detailed assessment of traffic incidents.
  • Addresses financial issues caused by federal prohibition by clearly stating that compliant transactions are not trafficking and do not result in proceeds of an unlawful transaction.
  • Contains common-sense guardrails to ensure that states, territories, and tribal nations regulating marijuana do so in a manner that is safe and respectful of the impacts on their neighbors.

Background: A fact sheet about the legislation is available here, and the full bill text is available here.