DOVER, Del. (June 22, 2018) – On Wednesday, the Delaware Senate gave final approval to a bill to expand the state’s medical marijuana program, further nullifying federal prohibition of cannabis in effect. 

Rep. Peter Schwartzkopf (D-Rehoboth Beach) and 23 bipartisan co-sponsors introduced House Bill 374 (HB374) in April. The legislation would add glaucoma, chronic debilitating migraines, pediatric autism spectrum disorder, and pediatric sensory processing disorder to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana in the state.

On Wednesday, the Senate passed HB374 by a 19-0 vote. Last month, the state House approved the measure by a 41-0 vote. The bill will now go to Gov. John Carney’s desk for his consideration.

Despite the federal prohibition on marijuana, measures such as these 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 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.

Deleware legalized medical marijuana in 2011 and decriminalized cannabis in 2015. These acts removed a layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana, but federal prohibition remains on the books.

FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law.  By legalizing marijuana in some situations, Delaware essentially swept 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.

A GROWING MOVEMENT

Enactment of HB374 would further ignore federal prohibition and continue the process of nullifying 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 31 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.

The move to expand medical marijuana laws in Deleware demonstrates another important reality. Once a state puts laws in place legalizing marijuana, it tends to eventually expand. HB374 are perfect examples of this tendency. As the state tears down some barriers, markets develop and demand expands. That creates pressure to further relax state law. This bill represents a further erosion of unconstitutional federal marijuana prohibition.

WHAT’S NEXT

Gov. Carney will have 10 days from the date of transmittal to sign or veto HB374 or it will become law without his signature. If you live in Delaware, call the governor at (302) 744-4101 to urge him to sign the legislation to expand the state’s medical marijuana program.

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