SAINT PAUL, Minn. (May 14, 2021) Yesterday, the Minnesota House passed a bill to legalize marijuana for adult use in the state despite federal prohibition on the same.
On February 1, House Majority leader Ryan Winkler and a coalition of 35 Democrats introduced House Bill 600 (HF600). The legislation would not only legalize recreational marijuana use for adults 21 and older, but it would also allow for adults to legally posses up to ten pounds of marijuana in a private residence, up to 2 ounces in public, and to home cultivate up to 8 plants (up to four mature) for personal use.
All of this is illegal under federal law.
This legislation would require the creation of a regulatory board, as well as an advisory council for the prevention and treatment of substance abuse disorder. It would also allow for expungement and re-sentencing of certain convictions.
In an unusual move likely intended to stall and derail the legislation, HF600 had to pass through 12 different committees before the full House could consider it. In most situations, a bill rarely has to go through more than three. On the house floor, the bill went through hours of debate that sometimes ventured into hostile territory, but at the end of the day, the bill was passed by the full chamber with a vote of 72-61.
EFFECT ON FEDERAL PROHIBITION
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.
Minnesota legalized medical marijuana in 2014. The legalization of marijuana for personal use in Minnesota would take the next step and remove 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
Minnesota is part of a growing number of states simply ignoring federal prohibition and nullifying it in practice and effect.
Currently, marijuana is legal for medical purposes only and only in certain forms in Minnesota. Adult-use, or recreational, marijuana is not legal in the state. Possession of less than 42.5 grams (1.5 ounces) of cannabis is considered a petty misdemeanor. First-time offenders may be ordered to attend drug rehab, though the law does allow a fine of up to $300.
Gov. Mark Dayton signed the Minnesota Medical Cannabis Act into law in May 2014. Minnesota was the 23rd state to enact medical marijuana legislation. The law created the state’s Medical Cannabis Program and Registry under the auspices of the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). Sales began in 2018.
With 36 states legalizing cannabis for medical use, and 17 legalizing for adult recreational 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.
HF600 now moves to the Senate, where leaders in the Republican majority have vowed to derail it.