JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (May 8, 2019) – Last week, a Missouri House committee unanimously passed a bill that would prohibit the state from releasing its marijuana registry to the federal government. Passage of the legislation would take another small step toward nullifying federal cannabis prohibition in effect.
On Jan 9, Rep. Nick Schroer (R-O’Fallon) introduced House Bill 238 (HB238). The legislation would bar the state government from sharing medical marijuana user or registry info with the federal government.
On May 1, the House Committee on Downsizing State Government passed HB238 by a 9-0 vote.
Missouri amended its state constitution to legalize medical marijuana through a ballot initiative in November.
Currently, the Department of Justice is barred from spending funds to prosecute medical marijuana users in states that have legalized medicinal cannabis. But there have been efforts by the Trump administration to get that ban lifted. In May of last year, then-attorney general Jeff Sessions sent a letter to congressional leadership emploring them to lift the ban.
“I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime.”
So far, Congress has kept the ban in place, but it could change the policy at any time. Passage of HB238 would make it more difficult for the feds to prosecute medical marijuana users in Missouri should the federal government decide to initiate a crackdown by preventing the DoJ from obtaining lists of individuals on the state registry.
It would also protect gun owners who use medical marijuana. According to the ATF, if you lawfully use marijuana, medical or otherwise, the feds say you may not purchase a firearm or ammunition. By withholding registry information from the feds, it would make it more difficult for the ATF to determine who is using marijuana in order to enforce its regulations.
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.
Missouri’s medical marijuana program removes one layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana, but federal prohibition remains in place.
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.
Passage of HB238 would further limit that state assistance and make it that much more difficult for the federal government to enforce prohibition in the Show Me State.
A GROWING MOVEMENT
Missouri 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 Missouri 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.
Expansion of medical marijuana laws in Missouri demonstrates another important reality. Once a state puts laws in place legalizing marijuana, it tends to eventually expand. HB238 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. This bill represents a further erosion of unconstitutional federal marijuana prohibition.
HB238 was referred to the Rules Legislative Oversight Committee where it must be approved by a majority vote before moving to the full House for a vote.
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