Rep. Chuck Edwards, who represents a district in western North Carolina, unveiled the “Stop Pot Act” on Friday, saying that the bill “will withhold 10 percent of federal highway funds for governments that violate federal law under the Controlled Substances Act, which prohibits recreational marijuana and classifies it as a Schedule I drug.”
The legislation “does not apply to jurisdictions that authorize medical use of marijuana when prescribed by a licensed medical professional,” the congressman’s office said in a press release.
“The laws of any government should not infringe on the overall laws of our nation, and federal funds should not be awarded to jurisdictions that willfully ignore federal law,” Edwards said in a statement.
“During a time when our communities are seeing unprecedented crime, drug addiction, and mental illness, the Stop Pot Act will help prevent even greater access to drugs and ease the strain placed on our local law enforcement and mental health professionals who are already stretched thin.”
Edwards’ bill is being introduced amid a sea-change in marijuana policy across the United States. Twenty-three states have legalized recreational cannabis for adults. Recreational pot has also been made legal in the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. As local news station ABC11 reported, Edwards’ bill also “comes as the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is set for a referendum election next week that has a question about whether to legalize the sale and use of recreational marijuana on tribal lands.”
If the referendum passes when the vote is held on Thursday, “the Qualla Boundary will be the only place in North Carolina to buy marijuana legally for recreational use,” Edwards’ office said.
But marijuana remains illegal on the federal level due to its status under the Controlled Substances Act.
In the press release for the bill on Friday, Edwards’ office noted that the measure has been endorsed by “Smart Approaches to Marijuana Action,” a coalition that aims to create a society “where marijuana policies are aligned with the scientific understanding of marijuana’s harms, and the commercialization and normalization of marijuana are no more,” and the Christian Action League.
“Today’s marijuana isn’t Woodstock Weed. It is a highly engineered drug that’s often wrapped in kid-friendly packaging, with potencies of up to 99 percent. The legalization movement has worsened America’s mental health and addiction crisis by preying on communities of color and young people. Today’s commercial marijuana products are associated with depression, suicidality, IQ loss and most recently psychosis and schizophrenia, especially for young people,” Smart Approaches president and CEO Dr. Kevin Sabet said in a statement.
“Federal law is clear – sales of marijuana and THC drugs are illegal. Congressman Edwards’ ‘Stop Pot Act’ holds states accountable for violating federal law and undermining the authority of the FDA and the DEA. In states across the country, we’ve seen marijuana and THC drug legalization lead to increases in marijuana-related driving crashes and deaths. As CBS News reported just today, a recent study found that in states where cannabis is legal, cannabis-related DUIs happen 32 percent more than in states where the drugs are not legal. By following the model used to raise the legal drinking age to 21 and making highway funding conditional upon responsible marijuana policy, this bill will improve roadway safety. That’s good news for everyone.”
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians have been preparing for a multi-million dollar dispensary for months, although the project has hit snags along the way.
In May, Richard Sneed, the principal chief of the tribe, said that he “vetoed the Tribal Council’s recent approval of the final $64 million for the project because the original proposal said the entire project would be completed for $50 million.”
“The fact that this project’s original cost for an outdoor grow, an indoor grow and an indoor dispensary was $50m, and we are now being told it is $95m, demonstrates that there is an immediate need for a full accounting of the money that has been expended to date,” Sneed wrote in a Facebook post at the time.
The tribe has been working to convert an old bingo hall into a marijuana superstore, which would be the only dispensary (medical or recreational) in the state of North Carolina.
Last fall, the tribe announced that it was beginning to grow its inaugural cannabis crop after a 2021 vote to legalize medical marijuana on its land.
“The Council’s approval of a medical marijuana ordinance is a testament to the changing attitudes toward legal marijuana and a recognition of the growing body of evidence that supports cannabis as medicine, particularly for those with debilitating conditions like cancer and chronic pain,” Sneed said in 2021 following the vote.