GOP Congressman’s Bill Would Cut Federal Funding For States And Tribes That Legalize Marijuana

Legislation introduced on Friday by a North Carolina congressman seeks to slash a portion of federal funding to individual U.S. states as well as Native tribes that legalize marijuana.

The so-called Stop Pot Act, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Chuck Edwards (R-NC), would withhold 10 percent of federal highway funding to jurisdictions “in which the purchase or public possession of marijuana for recreational purposes is lawful.” Introduction of the bill comes less than a week before a tribe in Edwards’s home state votes on an adult-use marijuana legalization referendum.

Edwards argues that state and tribal laws allowing cannabis use by adults are an affront to U.S. law.

“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,” he said in a press release. “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 previewed the bill in an op-ed published last month in Cherokee One Feather, where he warned a tribe in his state, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), against adult-use legalization. EBCI members are set to vote Thursday on a referendum that would legalize marijuana for all adults 21 and older, regardless of tribal membership.

“I proudly consider the tribe my friends, and I respect their tribal sovereignty,” the congressman wrote. But to allow North Carolinians to buy cannabis on tribal land, he said, “would be irresponsible, and I intend to stop it.”

EBCI Principal Chief Richard Sneed has since described Edwards’s comments as “a major political blunder.”

Writing in Cherokee One Feather, Sneed said he believes Edwards “overstepped his authority,” noting that the congressman is “a non-Indian, elected official telling a sovereign tribal nation how they ought to handle their business.”

If it becomes law, however, Edwards’s bill, which is cosponsored by Rep. Gregory Murphy (R-NC), would target more than just Indigenous people in his home state. It would also mean a financial hit to states in which nearly half of all Americans live, not to mention tribes in other states that have already launched marijuana-related ventures.

Two organizations have endorsed the bill so far, according to Edwards’s press release: the prohibitionist group Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) and the Christian Action League.

Kevin Sabet, SAM’s president and CEO, said in a statement released by Edwards’ office that “today’s marijuana isn’t Woodstock Weed,” referring to an outdoor music festival held 54 years ago. “It is a highly engineered drug that’s often wrapped in kid-friendly packaging, with potencies of up to 88 percent. The legalization movement has worsened America’s mental health and addiction crisis by preying on communities of color and young people.”

To be clear, no U.S. state where cannabis is legal allows products to be marketed to children. And despite some evidence that a small portion of people might experience psychosis associated with marijuana use, other recent research has indicated that psychosis symptoms may actually improve among people who use marijuana.

Read the full text of U.S. Rep. Chuck Edwards’s Stop Pot Act of 2023 below:

Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis/Side Pocket Images.

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