SACRAMENTO, Calif. (April 19, 2022) – Yesterday, a California Senate committee passed a bill that would allow the state to enter into agreements with other states to facilitate interstate marijuana markets despite ongoing federal cannabis prohibition.
Sen. Anna Caballero (D) introduced Senate Bill 1326 (SB1326) on Feb. 18. The proposed law would authorize the California governor to enter into agreements with other states authorizing marijuana activity between entities licensed under the laws of the other states and entities operating with a California state license.
In effect, the passage of SB1326 would open the door for interstate cannabis markets for California marijuana businesses. This would expand the market by reducing barriers to entry and providing additional legal outlets for cannabis and cannabis products produced in California.
On April 18, the Senate Committee on Business, Professions and Economic Development passed SB1326 by a 9-3 vote with some technical amendments.
EFFECT ON FEDERAL PROHIBITION
All of this is illegal according to the federal government.
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 in California removed a huge 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, 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 37 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. As Tenth Amendment Center Executive Director Michael Boldin noted, “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 open up interstate markets 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.
SB1326 will now move to the Senate Appropriations Committee where it must receive a hearing and pass by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.