Most Americans Want Feds to Keep Hands Off State Pot Laws

By McCarton Ackerman 12/09/14

A large majority of Americans like their new pot laws and want the federal government to stay away.

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When it comes to marijuana use, Americans want the federal government to butt out.

A new report released this week by think tank, Third Way, shows that 60% of Americans want states to decide whether marijuana should be legalized rather than federal authorities. Sixty-seven percent want a “safe haven” law that protects marijuana users in states where it’s legal from federal laws. Third Way recommended a federal “waiver system” that would facilitate this in exchange for states demonstrating to the federal government that a robust regulatory system is in place and allowing it to be re-evaluated periodically.

Having marijuana illegal at the federal level and legal at the state level has created complications for many users and businesses. They are fearful of being prosecuted for engaging in an activity that is legal in their state, while state-legal marijuana businesses can’t open bank accounts because most banks refuse to work with them for fear of being seen as money launderers.

Although Congress has failed to pass any bills related to reforming federal marijuana laws, several members of Congress have been working for change on that front. About a dozen bills were introduced last year that were designed to limit the federal government’s ability to interfere with legal marijuana programs. Bipartisan measures were also introduced to prevent the Drug Enforcement Administration from legal industrial help programs and medical marijuana shops.

“A supermajority of Americans believe that federal policymakers have a role to play in this discussion,” reported Third Way. “They should act to provide a safe haven from federal law for states that have already legalized marijuana and are acting responsibly to strictly regulate it.”

Employee drug testing has also become a primary issue in states where marijuana is legal because employees can still be fired for a positive marijuana test, with the recent legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington possibly sparking an increase in positive marijuana tests nationwide.

Recent figures from Quest Diagnostics show that positive tests for marijuana in employment drug screenings jumped 6.2% nationally from 2012-2013. Since marijuana was legalized for recreational use in Colorado and Washington, positive tests increased by 20% in Colorado and 23% in Washington.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.