SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (Feb. 4, 2016) – A Utah bill would legalize medical marijuana in the state, setting the foundation to nullify in practice the unconstitutional federal prohibition on cannabis.
Introduced by Sen. Mark Madsen (R-Saratoga Springs), Senate Bill 73 (SB73) sets up a state regulatory regime that would allow medical marijuana to make its way into the hands of the sick. It reads, in part:
The Department of Health shall… issue a medical cannabis card… to an individual if the individual:
(a) is at least 18 years old;
(b) is a Utah resident;
(c) submits to the Department of Health, via the electronic verification system, a recommendation electronically signed by a physician that indicates that the individual:
(i) suffers from a qualifying illness, including the type of qualifying illness; and
(ii) may benefit from treatment with cannabis or a cannabis product;
(d) pays the Department of Health a fee established by the department… and
(e) submits an application to the Department of Health, using the electronic verification system
Under SB73, patients would qualify to use medical marijuana if they suffered from AIDS, HIV, an autoimmune disorder, cachexia or a similar condition related to physical wasting, malnutrition related to a chronic disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis or a similar illness, Crohn’s disease or a similar illness, Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy or severe seizures, nausea, post traumatic stress disorder caused to military service, and “chronic pain in an individual, if a physician determines that the individual is at risk of becoming chemically dependent on, or overdosing on, opiate-based pain medication.” Other conditions may qualify under the discretion of the Compassionate Use Board established by the Department of Health.
Despite federal marijuana prohibition, measures such as SB73 remain perfectly constitutional, and there is little if anything the feds can do to stop them in practice.
EFFECT ON FEDERAL PROHIBITION
Passage of this bill would partially remove one layer of law prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana in Utah, but federal prohibition would remain in place.
Of course, the federal government lacks any constitutional authority to ban or regulate marijuana within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.
While this Utah bill would not alter federal law, they would take a step toward nullifying in effect the federal ban. FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By easing the state laws, the Utah legislature would remove some of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.
Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly-budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.
If the Utah legislature passes SB73, the Beehive State would join a growing number of states simply ignoring federal prohibition. Colorado, Washington state and Alaska have all legalized both recreational and medical marijuana, and 23 states now allow cannabis for medical use. With nearly half the country legalizing marijuana, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition any more. The feds need state cooperation to fight the “drug war,” and that has rapidly evaporated in the last few years with state legalization, practically nullifying the ban.
“The lesson here is pretty straight forward. When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations or mandates down our throats,” Tenth Amendment Center founder and executive director Michael Boldin said.
SB73 must pass the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee before it can receive a full Senate vote.
For Utah: Support these bills by following all the steps at THIS LINK.
For other states: Take action to support nullifying marijuana prohibition at this link.