CONCORD, N.H. (Jan. 30, 2019) – A bill introduced in the New Hampshire House would legalize the retail sale of marijuana and further nullify federal cannabis prohibition in effect.
Rep. John Hunt (R-Rindge) introduced House Bill 722 (HB722) on Jan. 3. The legislation would legalize the purchase or sale of marijuana from locally-permitted marijuana retail establishments to persons 21 years of age or older.
The proposed law builds on a law passed in 2017 that decriminalized possession of 3/4 ounce or less of marijuana. introduction of HB722 demonstrates an important strategic point. Passing bills that take a step forward sets the stage, even if they aren’t perfect. Once the door is open, the way is cleared for additional steps. You can’t take the second step before you take the first.
Despite the growing movement to legalize marijuana across the U.S., the feds maintain it is completely illegal.
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.
New Hampshire has already legalized medical marijuana. Passage of HB722 would remove another layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana, but federal prohibition would remain in place.
FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By curtailing state prohibition, Kentucky could sweep part 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. On top of that, the provision barring state enforcement of federal laws would further hinder prohibition by denying state assistance the feds desperately need.
A GROWING MOVEMENT
New Hampshire 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 in November 2016. In 2018, Michigan voters approved recreational marijuana and Vermont became the first state to fully legalize marijuana through a legislative act.
With 33 states including 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.
Decriminalization of marijuana and expansion of medical marijuana laws in New Hampshire demonstrates another important reality. Once a state puts laws in place legalizing marijuana, it tends to eventually expand. The introduction of HB722 is a perfect example of this tendency. As the state tears down some barriers, markets develop and demand expands. That creates pressure to further relax state law. These bills represent a further erosion of unconstitutional federal marijuana prohibition.
HB722 was referred to the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. A do-pass recommendation will significantly increase the bill’s prospects for passage in the House.
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