PHOENIX, Ariz. (Nov. 3, 2020) – Today, voters in Arizona passed a ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana, despite federal prohibition on the same.
By a tally of 60-40% with over 2.3 million votes cast, passage of Proposition 207 makes Arizona the 13th state to legalize recreational marijuana, joining New Jersey today – and 11 states that had previously approved similar measures.
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. Illinois followed suit in 2019.
Arizona voters legalized medical marijuana in 2010, passing Proposition 203 by a razor-thin margin. The new law passed by a wide margin today allows limited marijuana possession, use, and cultivation by adults 21 or older. It also sets up a tax and regulatory structure for the cultivation and sale of cannabis. The ballot measure includes a provision to allow the expungement of marijuana offenses.
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 marijuana for personal use in Arizona takes the next step and removes another layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana in the state even though 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
Arizona is one of a growing number of states simply ignoring federal prohibition and nullifying it in practice.
With 34 states allowing cannabis for medical use, and thirteen legalizing for recreational adult-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.
The push to legalize marijuana for personal use in Arizona demonstrates another important strategic reality. Once a state legalizes marijuana – even if only in a very limited way for medical purposes – it tends to eventually expand. As the state tears down some barriers, markets develop and demand grows. That creates pressure to further relax state law. These new laws represent a further erosion of unconstitutional federal marijuana prohibition.
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