Bipartisan Bill Offers Protections for States with Legal Cannabis

The aptly-named REFER Act prevents the federal government from going after businesses in legal states.
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Bill to Protect Legalized Cannabis Introduced

With recent threats of a federal crackdown on the thriving legal cannabis industry, a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers have introduced a bill to ensure protections for states that have legalized the plant for medical and/or adult-use. The Restraining Excessive Federal Enforcement and Regulations of Cannabis Act, or REFER Act, was introduced last week by Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA). The bill’s intention is "to protect states and individuals in states that have laws which permit the use of cannabis, and for other purposes.”

“The federal government should respect the will of the voters in states that have voted to decriminalize cannabis,” Congresswoman Lee said in a statement. “It’s time to stop wasting taxpayer money on the failed War on Drugs.”

REFER Act Strikes Back at Sessions

HR 4779 is cosponsored by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Don Young (R-AK), Dina Titus (D-NV), and Jared Polis (D-CO) and would prevent any Department of Justice funds from going towards fighting states’ own marijuana regulations. This comes in spite of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recent efforts to rescind an Obama-era policy that does essentially the same thing.

The bill would protect compliant businesses owners in legal states from (among other things) efforts to “detain, prosecute, sentence, or initiate civil proceedings against an individual, business, or property that is involved in the cultivation, distribution, possession, dispensation, or the use of cannabis in accordance with the law or regulation of the state or unit of local government in which the individual is located.”

Bill Would Also Protect Banks Working With Cannabis Companies

Additional language in the bill offers safeguards for financial institutions involved with legitimate cannabis operations. This has come as a sigh of relief from hundreds of canna-businesses who have been forced to remain cash-only due to banks being reluctant to work with them citing federal regulations.

“I’m proud to introduce the REFER Act, which would prevent the Attorney General and others in the Trump Administration from stifling the budding cannabis industry,” Lee added. “If the federal government chooses to interfere in these state matters, it’s up to Congress to prevent this harmful overreach.”

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