JACKSON, Miss. (Jan. 18, 2018) – Two bills introduced in the Mississippi House would chip away at federal marijuana prohibition. One bill would legalize medical marijuana while the other would legalize recreational marijuana. Passage into law would take a step toward nullifying federal cannabis prohibition in effect in the state.
Rep. Joel Bomgar (R-Madison) introduced House Bill 391 (HB391) to legalize medical marijuana on Jan. 5 while Rep. Omeria Scott (D-Laurel) introduced House Bill 474 (HB474) to legalize recreational marijuana on Jan. 8.
Under HB391, medical marijuana would be provided to individuals with “cancer, glaucoma, spastic quadriplegia, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), seizures, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, ulcerative colitis, intractable pain, or any other serious medical condition or its treatment added by the [state]” from dispensaries or caregivers under the following regulations:
(1) A qualifying patient who possesses a valid registry identification card is not subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner, or denial of any right or privilege, including any civil penalty or disciplinary action by a court or occupational or professional licensing board or bureau for:
(a) Possession, transportation, or use of marijuana under this act, if the cardholder does not possess more than the allowable amount of marijuana;
(b) Transferring marijuana to a testing facility for testing; or
(c) Compensating a dispensary for goods or services provided.
HB474 would create a tax-and-regulate system for marijuana in a framework that is similar to what has been implemented in Colorado and other states. After being approved by the state, marijuana retail operations would be required to pay “a tax equal to seven percent (7%) of the gross proceeds of the retail sales of the business” as well as other applicable sales taxes and local taxes. Purchasers of the legal marijuana would have to be 21 years or older.
Despite the federal prohibition on marijuana, measures such as HB391 and HB474 remain perfectly constitutional, and the feds can do little if anything to stop them in practice.
Under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970, the feds maintain complete prohibition of cannabis. 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.
FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By easing criminal penalties, Mississippi would sweep away 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.
Passage of HB391 and HB474 would begin to erode federal prohibition and that the first step toward nullifying it in practice in the state.
A GROWING MOVEMENT
Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska were the first states to legalized recreational cannabis, with California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts joining them after ballot initiatives in favor of legalization were passed in those states in November 2016.
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 anymore.
“The lesson here is pretty straightforward. 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.
HB391 and HB474 must pass the House Drug Policy Committee before they can advance further through the legislative process.