If you find the current state of marijuana laws across the country confusing—with some states having various forms of cannabis legalized despite the substance being illegal on a federal level—you’re not alone. Attorney General William Barr told Congress this week he finds the current situation “intolerable.” If states are going to continue legalizing cannabis, then the federal government should just get out of the way, Barr indicated.
Barr revealed his stance amidst renewed interest in the STATES Act, which would provide federal protections for those complying with state marijuana laws. In effect, the legislation would allow states to regulate cannabis however they want without fear of federal intervention.
“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, so we’re not just ignoring the enforcement of federal law.”
The Justice Department is currently reviewing the STATES Act, Barr said. However, Barr himself has not personally examined the proposed measure and instead awaiting comments from the DOJ review.
“Once we get those comments, we’ll be able to work with you on any concerns about the STATES law,” Barr said. “But I would much rather that approach—the approach taken by the STATES Act—than where we currently are.”
Barr’s stance falls in line with his statements during his confirmation hearings. Then Barr reiterated multiple times he wouldn’t prosecute marijuana businesses operating legally under state law. These statements further underscore that Barr and the Department of Justice will not interfere with legal cannabis operations, no doubt a positive development for the cannabis community writ large.
“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,” Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement. “This is an idea whose time has come, which is evidenced by it being echoed by officials at the highest levels of government.”