TRENTON, N.J. (Jun. 18, 2018) – Two bills filed in the New Jersey Senate would legalize marijuana, setting the foundation to nullify federal cannabis prohibition in effect in the state.
Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Union) introduced Senate Bill 2702 (S2702) and Senate Bill 2703 (S2703) on Jun. 7. Both bills would permit adults 21 or older to use, purchase or transport up to one ounce of marijuana. Excise taxes would be phased in over the course of four years up to a 25 percent total. S2702 would also expand medical marijuana regulations in order to create a new designation for institutional caregivers that would allow healthcare professionals to administer medical marijuana to sick patients.
“I think we’ve got lessons that we can learn from other states, even Colorado, which is the head as far as legalization, to replicate something they have instead of reinventing the wheel,” Sen. Scutari said about his push to NJ.com.
According to ASI, analysts say the dual bill approach is a way of covering bases in case lawmakers are hesitant to vote for medical marijuana expansion along with recreational legalization.
Despite the federal prohibition on marijuana, measures such as S2702 and S2703 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.
Legalization of recreational marijuana 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, New Jersey 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
Medical marijuana is currently legal in New Jersey. Passage of these bills 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.
S2702 and S2703 were referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee where the bills will need to pass by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.