AG Barr Prefers the STATES Act to the Current “Intolerable” Situation

Washington, D.C. – Today, during a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing, Attorney General William Barr implored Congress to act to correct the conflict between federal and state marijuana laws, explaining that the current situation is “intolerable.” While he noted that the Department of Justice is reviewing the STATES Act, recently reintroduced by U.S. Senators Gardner (R-CO) and Warren (D-MA), he testified that he supports the STATES Act’s approach over the current system.


“Earlier this year I met with then attorney general nominee William Barr ahead of his confirmation vote, and we discussed the disconnect between federal and state marijuana laws,” said Senator Gardner. “In particular, we discussed how my STATES Act would provide a state-based solution to the conflict between federal law and those 47 states that allow some form of cannabis. The bipartisan, commonsense bill ensures the federal government will respect the will of the voters – whether that is legalization or prohibition – and not interfere in any states’ legal marijuana industry. 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.”


Transcription from Appropriations Hearing


Senator Murkowski:


Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Attorney General, welcome. I want to start my questions with the issue of marijuana.


Senator Gardner has really taken the lead on this issue over here in the Senate and I have been supportive of his efforts.


He’s trying to move forward with the STATES Act. I’m cosponsoring that, but when we visited and during your confirmation process, you explained that you believe that the current conflict between federal and state marijuana laws is untenable, was the words that you described.


You also explained that you will not upset settled expectation or the reliance interest that have developed because of the policies from the prior administration, but you did state that you believe the current situation really has to be addressed.


I know and understand that you don’t support the wholesale legalization of marijuana, you made it clear that we face a binary choice between the federal prohibition and a ”federal approach” to correct the disconnect between federal and state marijuana laws.


I think you committed to me, and to others, that this is something that Congress has to address the right way, which is through legislation and we would agree with that. I think that the STATES Act is an approach that does what you have recommended, it adjusts the federal law the right way to create a federal approach to marijuana.


I think the president has expressed some support for it.


So can you share with me, share with the committee, where you are on this approach that has been outlined in this STATES Act and whether or not we can work with you on this issue?


A.G. William Barr:


Yes, Senator.


The situation that I think is intolerable, in which I’m opposed to, is the current situation we’re in, and I would prefer one of two approaches rather than where we are.


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.


Now I haven’t studied specifically the STATES law, but I’ve just circulated it through the Department for comment and I think that’s the process it’s in now.


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, with the approach taken by the STATES Act, than where we currently are.


NOTE: View the Appropriations hearing in full here.