MONTGOMERY, Ala. (May 10, 2019) – Yesterday, the Alabama Senate passed a bill that would legalize medical marijuana in the state and take a step toward nullifying federal cannabis prohibition in practice and effect.
Sen. Tim Melson (R-Florence) introduced Senate Bill 236 (SB236) on April 4. The proposed law would legalize medical marijuana for patients 19 and older with qualifying conditions. The bill would create a licensing program for medical marijuana patients and caregivers. SB236 would also create a Medical Cannabis Commission to administer the program. This body would establish and run the registry program, and create a licensing framework for the cultivation, processing, transportation, manufacturing, packaging, dispensing and sale of cannabis. The commission would also be empowered to adopt rules, and to generally regulate, administer and enforce a medical cannabis program in the state.
On Thursday, the Senate passed SB236 by a 17-6 vote.
“There is a time I never would have carried this bill a year ago, two years ago,” Melson said during the floor debate. “I finally looked up the facts instead of stereotyping what medical cannabis is.”
While medical marijuana has become widely accepted across the U.S., the federal government still maintains absolute prohibition of cannabis.
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 SB236 would 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, Alabama 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
Alabama 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.
SB235 now moves to the House for further consideration. It was referred to the House Health Committee where it must pass by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.