Pubdate: Sun, 15 Nov 2015
Source: Herald, The (Everett, WA)
Copyright: 2015 The Daily Herald Co.
Author: Suzan DelBene
Note: U.S. Rep Suzan DelBene D-Wash, represents the 1st Congressional District

Marijuana and Federal Law


The U.S. Smart Act Would Protect Marijuana Users and Businesses in 
States Where It Has Been Legalized.

In 2012, voters in Washington state passed Initiative 502, which 
legalized the sale, consumption and taxation of marijuana products. 
Including Washington, 23 states and the District of Columbia have 
legalized some form of marijuana, and in 2016, several more states 
are expected to consider marijuana legalization ballot initiatives.

Yet, marijuana possession or use for any purpose is still prohibited 
under the federal Controlled Substances Act, leaving participants in 
all of the state markets - including cancer patients - at risk of 
arrest by federal authorities.

This murky legal environment restricts states from being able to 
regulate as effectively as possible because they are hamstrung by 
federal preemption problems. The federal government should provide 
states already effectively regulating marijuana the certainty that 
their citizens will not face federal prosecution.

That's why I introduced the State Marijuana And Regulatory Tolerance 
(SMART) Enforcement Act. It would protect medical patients, 
recreational users and businesses owners in states that have 
legalized marijuana from being prosecuted now or retroactively in the 
future. My bill builds on the current U.S. Department of Justice 
guidance for marijuana enforcement and recognizes the shared role 
states have traditionally played in policing marijuana offenses.

According to a Pew poll, 60 percent of Americans agree that the 
federal government should not force its law on states that have 
chosen to allow the use of marijuana.

Washington voters clearly made their decision. It has saved our state 
in costly legal expenses and created a new, growing industry, 
including countless small businesses. Since passage of Initiative 
502, court filings in Washington for low-level marijuana offenses 
have dropped by 98 percent, saving the state millions of dollars in 
enforcement and judicial expenses. Washington has also collected more 
than $80 million in tax revenue from sales alone.

The SMART Enforcement Act would give the U.S. Attorney General the 
authority to waive the Controlled Substances Act for states that are 
effectively regulating marijuana themselves, such as Washington. It 
authorizes a waiver from the Controlled Substances Act for states 
that meet requirements preventing the distribution of marijuana to 
minors, violence or use of firearms in cultivation and distribution 
of marijuana, and drugged driving. And each waiver would have to be 
renewed after three years, allowing for reasonable oversight and 
reevaluation of the success of this approach.

By waiving the Controlled Substances Act with respect to marijuana, 
the SMART Enforcement Act would also allow banks to serve businesses 
in the marijuana industry that are currently being forced to operate 
on an unsafe all-cash basis. Local business owners in Washington have 
told me how they live in constant fear of robberies, describing the 
current situation as a "fire keg waiting for a match."

While Congress could simply legalize marijuana nationally, that isn't 
possible in the current political climate. We need a pragmatic and 
expeditious solution now and my bill would help provide the 
foundation and information for Congress to evaluate national legalization.

As states like ours move forward with legalization, it is foolish to 
keep businesses, communities and lives at risk by making them targets 
of criminals. We must adapt federal policy to the new reality.

It's long past time for Congress to provide clarity on this issue. 
The SMART Enforcement Act does this by incentivizing states pursuing 
legalization to enact strong regulations that will protect public 
health and safety, allowing the federal government to step aside and 
leave marijuana regulation to the states.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom