COLUMBUS, Ohio (April 26, 2022) – A bill introduced in the Ohio House would legalize marijuana for adult use despite ongoing federal cannabis prohibition.
Rep. Casey Weinstein (D) and Rep. Terrence Upchurch (D) introduced House Bill 8628 (HB8628) on 4/20. The legislation mirrors provisions in a ballot initiative the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CTRMLA) is working to put before voters.
Under the proposed law, adults 21 and older could possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis and up to 15 grams of marijuana concentrates. Individuals could also grow up to six plants for personal use, with a maximum of 12 plants per household. The proposed law would also establish a regulatory structure for the cultivation and sale of marijuana.
Republican House leadership reportedly opposes the measure, so it won’t likely move forward in the legislature. Weinstein told Marijuana Moment he didn’t think it would even get a committee hearing. But he said he wanted to make it clear to Ohio voters that “they’ve got a voice in me at the Statehouse on this issue—and I am not going to give up until we get this legalized.”
“We’re three months into a four-month window that we have, and we’re ignoring the voters,” he said. “We are shutting out Ohioans, and that’s unacceptable in my view and completely antithetical to our job. And so I had enough and I put forward a legislative vehicle for us to codify this statute.”
Failure in the legislature wouldn’t close the door on marijuana legalization.
CTRMLA has already turned in about 133,000 initial signatures for their ballot measure. If the legislature fails to act, activists will need to collect an additional 132,887 valid signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot.
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 the 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. In 2021 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. 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.
At the time of this report, HB8628 had not been referred to a House committee. Once it receives a committee assignment, it will need to get a hearing and pass by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.
- Not Much: What the Feds are Authorized to Do Under the Constitution - May 10, 2022
- New York Senate Committee Passes Bill to End Civil Asset Forfeiture, Opt State Out of Federal Program in Most Cases - May 10, 2022
- Delaware House Passes Bill to Legalize Marijuana Possession Despite Federal Cannabis Prohibition - May 9, 2022