BOSTON, Mass (Jan. 2, 2017) –  On Dec. 15, Massachusetts become the first state on the East Coast to legalize marijuana production and possession for adults. The act is a big step toward nullifying federal cannabis prohibition.

In November, Massachusetts voters passed Question 4 by a 53 percent majority. The vote sets up a state Cannabis Control Commission. As of December 15, allowing anyone in the state 21 or over to grow up to 12 cannabis plants. They can also privately possess 10 ounces of cannabis flowers and one ounce in public. However, public smoking is still prohibited, the same as tobacco.

In a setback for legalization efforts, the Massachusetts legislature voted to delay the likely opening date of retail marijuana shops six months, from January 2018 to July 2018. Taking advantage of legislative rules, a small handful of legislators pushed through the delay.

“We are very disappointed that the Legislature has decided to alter Question 4 in an informal session with very little notice regarding proposed changes,” Jim Borghesani, a leader in the marijuana legalization campaign told the Boston Globe.

He added that proponents of the ballot question are open to technical changes, but the group’s position remains that “the measure was written with careful consideration regarding process and timelines and that no major legislative revisions are necessary.”

Despite the delay in opening retail stores, the state took a major step toward legalization with possession and private cultivation now officially legal.


The federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970 prohibits all of this behavior. 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.

Legalization of marijuana in Massachusetts would remove a huge layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana, but federal prohibition will remain on the books.

FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By mostly ending state prohibition, Kentucky essentially sweeps away most 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.


Massachusetts join a growing number of states simply ignoring federal prohibition, and nullifying it in practice. Those states include Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska. With more than two-dozen states allowing cannabis for medical use as well, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition any more.

“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.

TJ Martinell

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