MADISON, Wisc. (June 28, 2019) – A bill introduced in the Wisconsin Assembly would legalize marijuana for adults over 21 in the state despite federal prohibition.

A coalition of 23 Democrat representatives and senators introduced Assembly Bill 220 (AB220) on May 17. The proposed law would legalize possession of up to 2 ounces of marijuana for Wisconsin residents 21 years old or older and possession of up to 1/4 ounce of marijuana for non-residents over 21. Persons over 21 would be able to legally grow up to six marijuana plants. The bill would also create a licensing and regulatory structure for the production, processing and sale of marijuana for recreational use.

AB220 includes provisions relating to cannabis for medical use, including a medical marijuana registry,  licensing and regulation of “compassion centers”  and provisions authorizing the use of medical marijuana for patients visiting the state.

With a bill to legalize marijuana on the governor’s desk in Illinois, Wisconsin is on the verge of becoming an islanded surrounded by states with legal marijuana. Despite these efforts, the Federal government continues to claim the authority to prohibit cannabis for any reason across the U.S.

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 Wisconsin would remove a huge layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana, but federal prohibition would remain 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

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 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.

 

Mike Maharrey

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