JACKSON, Miss. (Jan. 14, 2022) – Yesterday, the Mississippi Senate passed a bill that would legalize medical marijuana despite ongoing cannabis prohibition.

Sen. Kevin Blackwell (R) and a bipartisan coalition of nine senators introduced Senate Bill 2095 (SB2095) on Jan. 11. The legislation would legalize medical marijuana and create a legal structure for the program. Under the law, patients with about two dozen specific medical conditions would qualify for medical marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation. Regulators would have the power to add additional conditions.

The Senate passed SB2095 by a 46-5 vote.

Mississippi voters approved a measure to legalize medical marijuana n the 2020 general election, but the state Supreme Court overturned the referendum on a procedural technicality.

There is significant political opposition to legalizing medical cannabis in Mississippi. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) has threatened to veto SB2095 because he thinks purchase limits would be too high. And last year, Mississippi Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson (R) said he doesn’t see how his office can participate in a marijuana program given cannabis remains illegal under federal law.

Blackwell countered claims that the proposed measure would be too lax and effectively legalize recreational marijuana. “I suggest that if you think that, maybe you should take the time and actually read the bill, because you’ll find that it is a medical bill,” he said on the Senate floor.

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.

The legalization of medical marijuana in Mississippi would take the first 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

Mississippi could join a growing number of states simply ignoring federal prohibition and nullifying it in practice.

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 including 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.

WHAT’S NEXT

SB2095 will now move to the House for further consideration. At the time of this report, the bill had not been referred to a House committee. Once it receives a committee assignment, it must get a hearing and pass by a majority vote before moving forward in the process.


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