HARRISBURG, Pa. (July 5, 2021) – Last week, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill into law expanding the state’s medical marijuana program despite ongoing federal cannabis prohibition.

A bipartisan coalition of 12 representatives introduced House Bill 1024 (HB1024) on March 26. It makes several changes to the state’s medical marijuana program that will expand the program and make cannabis more accessible to patients.

Under the new law, cannabis patients can now possess up to a 90-day supply of marijuana. Under the original law, they were limited to a 30-day supply. The new law makes the program more convenient for patients by allowing them to consult with authorizing physicians via video conferencing and authorizing dispensaries to utilize curbside pickup.

Additionally, HB1024 expanded the pool of eligible conditions for treatment with cannabis to include cancer remission therapy and CNS-related neuropathy. It also removed a requirement that patients suffering from chronic pain must first try prescription pain meds prior to using marijuana.

The House passed the final version of HB1024 by a 165-36 vote. The Senate approved the measure 47-3. With Gov. Wolf’s signature on June 30, the law went into immediate effect.


While marijuana has become more widely accepted across the U.S., under federal law, it remains illegal. As we’ve seen with immigration sanctuary cities, when state and local enforcement ends, the federal government has an extremely difficult time enforcing their acts.

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.

Despite federal prohibition, Pennsylvania legalized medical marijuana in 2016 removing a layer of laws punishing 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.


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 MexicoVirginia and Connecticut legalized marijuana through legislative action.

With 36 states allowing cannabis for medical use, and 18 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 passage of HB1024 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.

Mike Maharrey