WASHINGTON — At a Senate Appropriations hearing Wednesday, Attorney General William Barr said he would prefer a proposed federal marijuana policy reform bill over the current system of conflicting state and federal laws.
The comments came after Barr was asked about the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act, which was introduced in the House and Senate last week by a bipartisan group of lawmakers. It would amend the federal Controlled Substances Act to exempt marijuana-related activities conducted in compliance with state, territory, or tribal laws.
Barr said he “would much rather that approach—the approach taken by the STATES Act—than where we currently are.” He said he has not reviewed the bill and that it is currently being circulated internally in the Justice Department.
“The situation that I think is intolerable and which I’m opposed to is the current situation we’re in, and I would prefer one of two approaches rather than where we are,” Barr said. “Personally, I would still favor one uniform federal rule against marijuana, but if there is not sufficient consensus to obtain that, then I think the way to go is to permit a more federal approach so states can make their own decisions within the framework of the federal law and so we’re not just ignoring the enforcement of federal law.”
“We are pleased to hear the attorney general would prefer the approach taken by the STATES Act rather than maintaining the current status quo,” Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement. “There is growing consensus that Congress needs to take action to ease the current tension between federal and state marijuana laws. As an organization, we have been working for years to change state marijuana laws, and we believe it is critical that the federal government respect those reforms.
“A strong and steadily growing majority of Americans support legalizing marijuana, and an even stronger majority believe the federal government should respect state legalization laws. This is an idea whose time has come, which is evidenced by it being echoed by officials at the highest levels of government,” Hawkins added.