TRENTON, N.J. (May 29, 2018) – A bill introduced in the New Jersey assembly would expand access to medical marijuana by instituting reciprocity with other medical marijuana states. The bill would further expand the medicinal cannabis market in the New Jersey and further nullify federal prohibition in practice.
Rep. Annette Quijano (D) introduced Assembly Bill 3971 (AB3971) on May 17. Under the proposed law, a qualifying patient or primary caregiver with a valid medical marijuana card from another state would be able to possess and access medicinal cannabis in New Jersey. Qualifying caregivers and patients would be allowed to engage in any legal activities under New Jersey’s medical marijuana laws.
New Jersey legalized medical marijuana in 2010. The program languished under Gov. Chris Christie, a staunch opponent of cannabis. When Gov. Phil Murphy took office, he loosened requirements and expanded the number of qualifying medical conditions. According to the Observer, the state added 4,200 people to its medicinal cannabis program since Murphy took office. Passage of AB3971 would further expand medical marijuana in New Jersey and take another step toward nullifying federal cannabis prohibition in effect.
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.
Expanding the medical marijuana program in New Jersey would remove another 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, Rhode Island 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.
A GROWING MOVEMENT
Passage of AB3971 would further ignore federal prohibition and nullify it in practice in the state. 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 in November 2016. In January, Vermont became the first state to legalize marijuana through a legislative act.
With 30 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.
Efforts to expand New Jersey’s 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.
AB3971 was referred to Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee where it will need to pass by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.
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