CONCORD, N.H. (June 1, 2021) – Last Thursday, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu signed a bill into law expanding the state’s medical-marijuana program despite ongoing federal cannabis prohibition.

A bipartisan coalition of four representatives sponsored House Bill 89 (HB89). The new law authorizes physicians to recommend medical marijuana for patients with moderate or severe insomnia. It also allows adult or pediatric patients with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to use medical marijuana under specific circumstances, despite an ongoing federal prohibition on the same.

According to NORML, several clinical trials, ( HERE and HERE) have shown that plant-derived cannabis extracts are effective and well-tolerated in patients diagnosed with ASD.

The House passed HB89 on a voice vote and the Senate approved the measure by a 17-7 vote. With Gov. Sununu’s signature, the bill will go into effect on July 21.

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.

The legalization of medical marijuana in New Hampshire in 2013 removed a 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.

FurthSignedermore, 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. 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. New Jersey, Montana and Arizona all legalized recreational marijuana through ballot measures in the 2020 election. Earlier this year, New YorkNew Mexico and Virginia legalized marijuana through legislative action.

With 36 states allowing 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.

The enactment of HB89 highlights 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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