COLUMBIA, S.C. (Jan. 29, 2019) – Two bills introduced in the South Carolina legislature would legalize medical marijuana in the state and take a step toward nullifying federal cannabis prohibition in practice and effect.

A bipartisan coalition of four senators introduced Senate Bill 366 (S.366) on Jan. 15. Two days later, seven representatives introduced a companion bill in the House (H.3660). The legislation would legalize medical marijuana, authorize physicians to recommend cannabis as a treatment for qualifying conditions, create a licensing program for medical marijuana patients, and establish a structure for the production and distribution of medicinal cannabis in the state.

Two other bills to legalize medical marijuana have been introduced in the South Carolina House. The effect of passing any of these measures would be similar although program details differ.

While medical marijuana has become widely accepted across the U.S., the federal government still claims it is illegal.

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.

Passage of either would S.366 or H.3660 remove a 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, South Carolina 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.

A GROWING MOVEMENT

South Carolina 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 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.

WHAT’S NEXT

S. 366 was referred to the Senate Committee on Medical Affairs. H.3660 was referred to the House Committee on Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs. Both bills must pass their respective committees with a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.

Mike Maharrey

The 10th Amendment

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