COLUMBUS, Ohio (Aug. 5, 2021) – A bill filed in the Ohio House would legalize the adult use of marijuana despite ongoing federal cannabis prohibition.
Rep. Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson) and Rep. Terrence Upchurch (D-Cleveland), along with eight fellow Democrats, introduced House Bill 382 (HB382) on Aug. 2. Under the proposed law, adults 21 and over could possess up to five ounces of marijuana and grow up to 12 plants for personal use. The legislation would also create a regulatory framework directed by the Ohio Department of Commerce for the commercial cultivation and retail sale of marijuana.
HB382 includes provisions to expunge prior convictions for possession and cultivation activities made legal under the new law.
In a press release, Weinstein said it was time to “lead Ohio forward.”
“This is a big step for criminal justice reform, for our veterans, for economic opportunity, and for our individual liberties.”
Meanwhile, grassroots activists in Ohio have launched an effort to put marijuana legalization on the ballot. Last week, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CTRMLA) submitted the required 1,000 signatures to the Ohio attorney general’s office to begin the process.
EFFECT ON FEDERAL PROHIBITION
Ohio legalized medical marijuana in 2016 despite ongoing 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 marijuana for personal use in Ohio 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
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 York, New Mexico, Virginia 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 move to legalize recreational marijuana in Ohio 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.
HB382 will be referred to a House committee. Once it receives a committee assignment, it must pass by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.