HARTFORD, Conn. (April 9, 2019) – A Connecticut House committee has passed a bill that would legalize marijuana for personal use despite federal prohibition.
The General Law Committee introduced House Bill 7371 (HB7371) on March 15. The proposed law would legalize the possession and use of marijuana for people 21 and over. It would also establish a regulatory structure to allow consumers to purchase cannabis from a licensed retailer. The bill would establish a Cannabis Commission within the Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) to license retailers, manufacturers, cultivators, and laboratories.
On March 25, the Joint Committee on General Law passed HB7371 by a 10-8 vote.
HB7371 features an interesting provision that would require the commission to promote and encourage full participation in the cannabis industry by “equity” applicants, which are people from communities that have been disproportionally harmed by the cannabis prohibition and its enforcement. Among other things, equity applicants will generally be issued licenses three months before others and have lower fees.
EFFECT ON FEDERAL PROHIBITION
Under the federal 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 cannabis 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.
Connecticut legalized medical marijuana in 2012. That program removes one layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana, but federal prohibition remains in place. Passage of HB7371 would remove even more state enforcement and further undermine federal prohibition.
FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. When states stop enforcing marijuana laws, they sweep 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
Connecticut joins 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, Vermont became the first state to legalize marijuana through a legislative act. and Michigan passed a ballot measure legalizing cannabis for general use.
With 33 states including Connecticut 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.
HB7371 was referred to the Office of Legislative Research and Office of Fiscal Analysis for analysis. From there, it could be referred to another committee or to the full House.
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