U.S. Attorney General William Barr said Wednesday that he prefers Sen. Cory Gardner’s legislation on marijuana to the “intolerable” patchwork of state and federal laws that exists today.
“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, that 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,” said Barr, who took over in February.
Barr was asked by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, about the STATES Act. The Gardner legislation is backed by a bipartisan group in Congress and would prevent authorities from enforcing a federal marijuana prohibition in states that have legalized, such as Colorado.
“Now, I haven’t studied specifically the STATES law, but I’ve just circulated it through the (Justice) Department for comment and I think that’s the process it’s in now,” Barr told Murkowski.
“Once we get those comments, we’ll be able to work with you on any concerns about the STATES law, but I would much rather that approach – the approach taken by the STATES Act – than where we currently are.”
Barr’s early support for the legislation, which was introduced last week, marks a departure from the strict anti-marijuana stance of his predecessor, Jeff Sessions. Gardner, a Yuma Republican, has said President Donald Trump is willing to sign the bill if it reaches his desk. The senator said Wednesday that he spoke to Barr about the STATES Act before Barr took office earlier this year.
“I’m glad Attorney General Barr today reiterated his belief that the current situation is untenable and that the STATES Act is an approach he would be interested in pursuing, and I hope my colleagues will hear his loud and clear call for Congress to act,” Gardner said.
The STATES Act was first introduced last year but failed to garner traction in the Republican-controlled Senate. In December, Gardner tried attaching it to a criminal justice reform bill but that approach was denied by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican.