American Bar Association Urges Federal Cannabis Law Reforms

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By TG Branfalt

The American Bar Association has issued a resolution calling for the federal government to allow state-approved cannabis programs to operate without interference; the resolution also calls for broad federal law reforms. The organization said the “gap between state and federal law has created a regulatory quagmire that is counter-productive for all parties interested in marijuana policy.”

In their report, the ABA points out that, since the Controlled Substances Act was passed, public support for cannabis law reforms “has ballooned” while federal law “has remained essentially unchanged.” A 2018 Gallup poll found 66 percent of Americans supported federal legalization – 75 percent of Democrats and 53 percent of Republicans – which was up from 56 percent 10 years prior. In 1969, public support for legalization was just 12 percent.

The association points out that while lawmakers have included riders in spending bills to protect state-legal medical cannabis businesses and patients, those riders “do not shield anyone in compliance with any state’s adult-use marijuana laws.”

“Moreover, the protection afforded by such riders is only temporary. If a rider lapses, both medical and non-medical marijuana users and suppliers would be subject to arrest and prosecution by the DOJ, and not just for their conduct going forward. Those using and producing marijuana could also be prosecuted for violations of the Controlled Substances Act they committed while the riders were in effect (so long as the statute of limitations has not expired).” – American Bar Association, Criminal Justice Section, Report to the House of Delegates

The report notes that, despite the riders, cannabusinesses are subject to unusually high federal taxes – specifically 280E – and often cannot obtain financial services.

The ABA offers support for the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act (STATES Act), which includes protections for state-approved cannabis programs.

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