Leave Pot Laws to States, Allow Federal 'Waiver,' Report Suggests

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on December 09, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A new report finds that a majority of Americans believe the federal government should not interfere with a state's decision to allow the legal use of marijuana.

The report by think tank Third Way found that 60 percent of American voters believe states should be able to decide whether to legalize marijuana, reports The Huffington Post. The report also found that 67 percent would support the federal government offering these states safe haven from federal laws making marijuana illegal.

The report proposes a federal "waiver" exempting states from federal marijuana policy. How would this waiver work?

Marijuana 'Safe Haven'

According to the Third Way report, 67 percent of voters polled felt that Congress should pass a bill allowing states that have legalized marijuana to be exempted from federal law, as long as they have a strong set of regulations in place. Even a significant number of those opposed to marijuana legalization, 21 percent, felt that Congress should provide states that pass marijuana legalization laws a waiver for federal drug laws.

Under the waiver envisioned by the Third Way report, federal law would be changed to allow states that have legalized marijuana to operate outside federal drug laws for a number of years. In exchange, the states would pass their own regulations on legal marijuana accomplishing similar goals as those of federal prohibition, including keeping marijuana away from children and keeping profits from criminal organizations.

In states granted the proposed waiver, marijuana businesses would be able to use the banking system. Currently, even legal marijuana businesses are generally unable to use the banking system because of federal law.

Marijuana Middle

According to the report, despite increased support for marijuana legalization -- including the passage of recreational marijuana legalization laws in Oregon, Alaska, and Washington, D.C., last month -- there remains a sizable "marijuana middle" who are conflicted about the topic.

In addition to the 21 percent of voters who oppose marijuana legalization but are in favor of a federal waiver, the "marijuana middle" also includes 28 percent of voters who favor legalization of marijuana for medical purposes but are not in favor of laws legalizing recreational use of the drug, according to the report.

Along with Oregon, Alaska, and Washington, D.C., marijuana is currently legal for recreational use in Colorado and Washington state. Nineteen other states have laws allowing for medical use of marijuana. Find out more about marijuana laws in your state at FindLaw's section on State Marijuana Laws.

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