HELENA, Mont. (Jan 1, 2022) – Beginning today, recreational marijuana is available for adults over 21 in Montana despite ongoing federal cannabis prohibition.
In November 2020, Montana voters approved Ballot issue I-190 56.9 percent to 43.1 percent with over 563,000 votes cast. The statutory measure legalized the possession and use of limited amounts of marijuana by people 21 and older. It also established a licensing, taxation and regulatory scheme for cannabis sales and cultivation. I-190 included a process for resentencing and records expungement for past marijuana offenses.
Voters also approved a separate measure, CI-118, by a 57.7- 42.3 vote. The initiative amends the state constitution to allow the legislature or a citizen initiative to establish the legal age of purchasing, consuming, or possessing marijuana. In effect, it will set the legal age for recreational marijuana at 21.
Last year, the Montana legislature passed enabling legislation (HB 701) to effectuate legal marijuana sales in the state.
Beginning today, adults 21 and over can purchase up to one ounce of marijuana at a time from licensed retail outlets. Edibles and concentrates are also available. Possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, or its THC equivalent in edibles, concentrates and other products, is legal in the state of Montana under the law. Montanans can also grow and possess up to two mature marijuana plants and two seedlings at home.
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.
Montana legalized medical marijuana in 2004. The legalization of marijuana for personal use in Montana removes a massive layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana in the state even though 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.
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 and Arizona joined Montana in legalizing recreational marijuana through ballot measures in the 2020 election. In 2021, 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.
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