Liberty, Federalism and the STATES Act Bring People Together
Despite the partisan bickering and divisiveness that dominates the headlines, progressives like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), conservatives like Sen. Corey Gardner (R-Co.), libertarians like my son Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ken.) and even President Donald Trump are still able to find common ground in the principles of limited, constitutional government and individual rights.
For example, Rand has joined Sen. Gardner in supporting Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Trusting States Act (S. 3032), known as the STATES Act.
The STATES Act codifies a policy endorsed by President Trump in his campaign — one that he recently reiterated: The federal government should not enforce federal laws criminalizing marijuana in the 30 states (plus the District of Columbia) that have legalized recreational or medicinal marijuana.
The STATES Act does not repeal federal marijuana laws; it simply protects state laws legalizing marijuana use from being usurped by federal law. The STATES Act thus ensures that citizens and business do not face federal prosecutions for activities that are perfectly legal under state laws.
The STATES Act does require that state marijuana laws have certain “guardrails” to avoid being nullified by federal government. While libertarians including myself would prefer the bill did not make federal respect for state laws dependent on what those state laws contained, most of the guardrails are already in state marijuana laws.
The STATES Act guardrail requirements also mirror the Obama Justice Department’s 2011 guidance limiting federal enforcement of marijuana law in states allowing some type marijuana usage.
Whatever one’s views of legalizing marijuana, the fact is: The federal government has no constitutional authority to criminalize marijuana use. Thus, the STATES act should not be thought of as pro-marijuana, but pro-Constitution.
The STATES Act is also pro-individual liberty. The federal war on marijuana has been used to justify numerous violations of our civil liberties. In fact, before the war on terror, the drug war was the “go to” excuse for new violations of our rights.
The STATES Act is also taxpayer friendly as it stops the waste of federal funds prosecuting peaceful marijuana users. It is also pro-medical freedom since it ensures those who use marijuana for medicinal purposes must no longer fear federal prosecution.
The bill will also end the federal government’s refusal to allow legal marijuana businesses to participate in our nation’s banking system. Current federal treatment of marijuana forces these businesses to operate in a cash-only basis, limiting their opportunity for growth.
The necessity to hold large amounts of aid cash also makes these businesses and their employed targets for robbery and other criminal acts.
The STATE Act would force federal drug warriors like Jeff Sessions to obey the 10th Amendment’s limits on federal power. Thus, it would protect individuals who choose to legally use marijuana; allow lawful marijuana business the same access to the banking system enjoyed by every other legal business; and stop wasting resources prosecuting peaceful marijuana users whose actions are legal under the laws of their state.
No wonder it has attracted such a broad range of support in Congress, and from advocacy groups ranging from the American Civil Liberties Union to my Campaign for Liberty.
Congress should pass this legislation and give President Trump the opportunity to keep his campaign promise: to protect the states’ right to make their own laws regarding marijuana free from federal interference.
Ron Paul, a former congressman for Texas, is host of the Ron Paul Liberty Report and Chairman of Campaign for Liberty.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.