In a debate last night between the two major party candidates in the hotly contested U.S. Senate race in Colorado, there was really only one issue Sen. Mark Udall (D) and Rep. Cory Gardner (R) agreed on: the federal government should get out of the way of the state's legal cannabis industry.
When debate moderator Brandon Rittiman of 9NEWS asked the candidates if they believed Colorado's legal cannabis businesses should be granted an exemption from federal laws regarding marijuana, both candidates responded positively.
"We need to work together as a [Congressional] delegation to make sure the federal government butts out," Udall stated in the debate.
"Congress should [grant an exemption]," Udall continued. "I'm working on that. We should do it for a number of reasons. Particularly, the cannabis industry needs access to the banking system. Right now, since marijuana is a Schedule I drug, that access is not available. It's a public safety hazard, and we will get the job done."
Gardner agreed, saying, "I don't know that you could specifically do that for Colorado; there are other states that are doing it. But Congress overall has to take a look at the regulatory system to make sure that Colorado is allowed to follow what it passed, and do so in a way that addresses banking issues and other regulatory issues as they arise throughout the entire system."
The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act (H.R. 1523) was introduced in the House by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) in 2013. That bill would amend the Controlled Substances Act so that its provisions related to marijuana would not apply to any person acting in compliance with state laws regarding cannabis. This change would help address the many unsustainable conflicts between federal marijuana policy and state mandates that have created legal, regulated marijuana systems. One of the most prominent of these conflicts has led to many legal cannabis businesses being denied access to basic banking services due to the federal regulation of the banking industry.
"Even the bitterest political opponents agree that the federal government is wrong to stand in the way of states taking a smarter approach to marijuana policy," said NCIA executive director Aaron Smith. "The responsible and hard-working small business people who make up this industry deserve to be treated fairly, and it speaks volumes that both Senate candidates in Colorado publicly declared their support for that tonight."
[A video clip of last night's exchange on cannabis policy can be found here - go to Part 3: Short Answer Round, and start at 1:50.]