DENVER, Colo. (June 11, 2019) – This month, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed four bills into law that will expand the legal marijuana market in the state despite federal prohibition.
House Bill 1230 (HB1230) legalizes limited on-site sales and consumption of marijuana in licensed, public establishments. These include restaurants, hotels, music venues and other businesses. Dispensaries will be able to open “tasting rooms.” The law also authorizes marijuana tour buses and limos. Establishments running the vehicles can’t sell cannabis, but marijuana consumption is allowed in them in a “bring-your-own-weed” system.
House Bill 1234 (HB1234) legalizes marijuana delivery. The service will be available for medical marijuana patients with red cards in January 2020. In January 2021, recreational shops and third-party delivery services will be able to begin operation. Cities, towns and counties can ban delivery services under the law.
House Bill 1090 (HB1090) opens up Colorado’s cannabis industry to outside investors and capital, including publicly held companies and large venture funds.
House Bill 1311 (HB1311) creates the Institute of Cannabis Research at Colorado State University-Pueblo. The role and mission of the institute are to conduct research related to cannabis and publicly disseminate the results of the research.
With Gov. Polis’ signature, the laws will go into effect August 2, 2019.
In effect, all of these measures will expand cannabis markets in Colorado despite continued federal prohibition.
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.
Legalization of cannabis in Colorado removed a huge layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana, but federal prohibition remains in effect. This is significant because 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
Along with 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 New Mexico 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.
Passage of these bills demonstrates another important strategic reality. Once a state legalizes marijuana – even if only in a very limited way – the law tends to eventually expand. As the state tears down some barriers, markets develop and demand expands. That creates pressure to further relax state law. These new laws represent a further erosion of unconstitutional federal marijuana prohibition.
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