JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Jan 4, 2022) – A resolution filed in the Missouri House would put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to legalize marijuana despite ongoing federal cannabis prohibition on the same.
Rep. Shamed Dogan (R) pre-filed House Joint Resolution 83 (HJR83) on Dec. 1. If passed, the resolution would put a constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana on the ballot for the 2022 general election in November.
Under the proposed amendment, adults over 21 would be able to purchase, possess, and cultivate marijuana. It would make it illegal for state funds to go toward the policing of federal marijuana prohibition, and do away with civil asset forfeiture against citizens engaged in legalized marijuana activities. A process would also be created for the potential expungement of previous non-criminal offenses. Tax revenue would go toward veteran services, infrastructure campaigns, and treatment programs.
There is also a grassroots effort to get marijuana legalization on the ballot. Legal Missouri 2022 recently launched a campaign to get 171,592 valid voter signatures – enough to get their own legalization measure on the ballot without the vote of the legislature. The same organization got a medical marijuana initiative on the ballot in 2018.
St. Louis recently passed a local ordinance earlier this year to decriminalize possession and cultivation.
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.
Missouri amended its state constitution to legalize medical marijuana through a ballot initiative in November of 2018. The legalization of marijuana for personal use in Missouri 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 Missouri 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.
HJR83 will be officially introduced when the Missouri legislature convenes on Jan. 5. It will need to receive a committee assignment, then a hearing and a vote. It must pass the committee by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.
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