Our editorial: Deal should lead to state rights on pot

The Detroit News

President Donald Trump is apparently overriding his attorney general on interfering with state marijuana laws, and in doing so provided some clarity for Michigan voters who may be considering a recreational pot measure on the November ballot.

In a deal reached with Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, Trump pledged to stop Attorney General Jeff Sessions from voiding an Obama-era policy to not meddle with states that had legalized marijuana use.

Gardner, a Republican member of the Judiciary Committee, had for three months been blocking Trump’s judicial nominees to protest Session’s intentions. Recreational use of pot is legal under Colorado state law.

Trump also said he would back a federal bill that would establish a state’s right to set its own laws on marijuana use.

There’s been no comment from the Justice Department on whether Sessions will abide by the agreement.

That information would be useful to Michigan voters, who likely will be asked in a proposal this fall to more broadly legalize pot. State voters approved medical marijuana use a decade ago.

A majority of states allow marijuana use for medical reasons, and eight states and Washington, D.C., have legalized recreational pot. Michigan is among several states that likely will consider joining the recreational use group this fall.

But marijuana cultivation, distribution and use is still illegal under federal law.

Should Sessions ignore his boss and follow through with his plan to enforce federal law in states that have legalized marijuana, it will in effect overturn those state laws, or create a constitutional clash in the courts.

Marijuana distributors and users who comply with state policy still could find themselves facing criminal charges at the federal level.

Trump’s deal with Gardner should keep Sessions at bay. But Congress still should codify the policy of allowing state laws to prevail on marijuana use.

And it should go further and declassify marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, which places it in the same category as more dangerous narcotics such as heroin and cocaine.

In addition, changes in federal laws are needed to allow those in the marijuana industry access to the banking system and credit markets. If marijuana is to be a legal enterprise, it should be treated as such in all aspects.

States need certainty and consistency in crafting their marijuana licensing and regulatory policies.

Those engaged in selling and using marijuana in states where it is legal shouldn’t have to constantly look over their shoulders for federal law enforcement officers.

The deal Trump and Gardner reached is a good first step, but it does not bear the weight of law. Policy could easily change again.

Congress should now take the lead and pass legislation that turns over the regulating of marijuana to the states.