CONCORD, N.H. (Aug. 29, 2017) – On Sunday, a law expanding New Hampshire’s medical marijuana program went into effect. The new law sets the stage for people in the state to further nullify federal marijuana prohibition in effect.
Rep. Eric Schleien (R-Hillsborough) sponsored House Bill 160 (HB160). The new law adds post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of qualifying conditions for patients to receive medical marijuana. HB160 passed the House on Mar. 8 by a 302-46 vote, and then cleared the Senate on a voice vote. Gov. John Sununu signed the bill into law on Jun. 28, and it went into effect on Aug. 27.
“There’s been a lot of research on this which shows that doctors prescribe fewer opioids in states where medical cannabis is an option for pain, and those states have lower fatal overdose rates,” Rep. Schleien said in a written statement defending his successful reform.
The New Hampshire legislature passed a law legalizing medical marijuana in 2013. The Department of Health and Human Services began pre-registering patients for medical marijuana ID cards in the fall of 2015, and the first dispensary opened last April. Allowing patients who suffer from this condition to access medical marijuana further expands the medicinal cannabis program in New Hampshire.
EFFECT ON FEDERAL PROHIBITION
New Hampshire’s medical marijuana program removes one layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana, but federal prohibition remains 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 state law does not alter federal law, it takes 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 state prohibition, New Hampshire essentially sweeps away part 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.
A GROWING MOVEMENT
Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska, California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts have all legalized marijuana for recreational or medical use. 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.
Having already legalized medical marijuana to a certain extent, New Hampshire has relaxed their restrictions against cannabis even further in 2017. The expansion of its medical marijuana law demonstrates another important reality. Once a state puts laws in place legalizing marijuana, it tends to eventually expand. As the state tears down some barriers, markets develop and demand expands. That creates pressure to further relax state law. These bills represent more steps forward for patients seeking alternative treatments and a further erosion of unconstitutional federal marijuana prohibition.