NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Jan. 26, 2017) – A bill introduced in the Tennessee Senate would legalize medical marijuana for qualifying patients in the state, setting the foundation to nullify unconstitutional federal cannabis prohibition in practice.

Introduced by Sen. Steven Dickerson (R-Nashville), Senate Bill 1710 (SB1710) would allow individuals to possess medical marijuana if they suffer from one or more qualifying conditions. Dispensaries would be permissible under SB1710 to provide medical marijuana to qualifying patients as well. Patients would also have the option of naming a caretaker who could grow marijuana on their behalf.

“Now is the time for the General Assembly to embrace thoughtful, medically responsible legislation to help Tennessee’s sickest residents,” Sen. Dickerson said.

Rep. Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) filed a companion bill (HB1749) in the House.

Despite the federal prohibition on marijuana, measures such as SB1710 remain perfectly constitutional, and the feds can do little if anything to stop them in practice.

LEGALITY

Under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970, the federal government maintains complete prohibition of marijuana. 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 medical marijuana in Tennessee would remove one 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 curtailing state prohibition, Tennessee could 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 annual 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 either. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.

A GROWING MOVEMENT

Tennessee could join a growing number of states simply ignoring federal prohibition, and nullifying it in practice. Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska were the first states to legalize recreational cannabis, and California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts joined them after ballot initiatives in favor of legalization passed last year.

With 29 states allowing cannabis for medical use, 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.

WHAT’S NEXT?

SB1710 will need to pass the Senate Judiciary Committee before it can be considered in the full Senate. HB1749 had not been referred to a committee at the time of this report.

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