SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (Aug. 20, 2019) – Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has signed two bills into law that expand the state’s medical-marijuana program despite federal prohibition.

A coalition of six Democrats sponsored Senate Bill 455 (SB455). The legislation amends a 2018 law known as “Ashley’s Law” authorizing schools to allow guardians or other caregivers to administer cannabis-infused products students authorized to use medical marijuana. SB455 expands the law by requiring schools to allow school nurses or administrators to administer medical marijuana. Students will also be able to self-administer cannabis under the supervision of a school nurse. Additionally, the new law expands student access to medical marijuana to include before and after-school activities.

The new law will go into effect Jan. 1, 2020.

Senate Bill 2023 (SB2023) was originally a marijuana banking bill that would have prohibited state banks from denying certain services to marijuana businesses. During the legislative process, that language was scrapped and the bill was amended to expand and make permanent the state’s medical-marijuana pilot program. The program was slated to sunset next year.

SB2023 adds 11 new conditions eligible for treatment with medicinal cannabis. The new law also allows qualifying veterans to access medical marijuana as part of an Opioid Alternative Pilot Program. Under the new law, advance practice registered nurses and physician assistants will now be able to recommend medical marijuana. Under the pilot program, only physicians could certify patients.

The legislation overwhelmingly passed both houses of the Illinois assembly and went into immediate effect with Gov. Pritzker’s signature on Aug. 9.

Earlier this year, Pritzker signed a bill into law legalizing marijuana for adult personal use as well. The legalization of marijuana in Illinois and the expansion of the state’s medical-marijuana program have moved forward despite federal marijuana 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.

The expansion of Illinois’ medical cannabis program and the legalization of marijuana for recreational use remove a significant layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana in the state, 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.


Enactment of SB455 and SB2023 further ignore federal prohibition and continue the process of nullifying it in practice in Illinois.

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. Michigan followed suit when voters legalized cannabis for general use in 2018. Vermont became the first state to legalize marijuana through a legislative act in 2018.

With 33 states including Delaware 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.

Passage of these two bills demonstrates another important strategic reality. Once a legalizes marijuana – even if only in a very limited way – it 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.

Mike Maharrey

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