AUGUSTA, Maine (May 5, 2022) – Last week, a bill that will allow retail marijuana businesses to offer home delivery and curbside pickup of cannabis products despite ongoing federal marijuana prohibition was enacted without the governor’s signature.
Rep. Joseph Perry (D) introduced House Bill 1827 (LD1827) last December. The proposed law would allow licensed marijuana retailers to deliver cannabis products to residential buildings with some restrictions. The law would allow delivery “regardless of whether the municipality has approved the operation of marijuana stores.” This would expand access to marijuana throughout the entire state. The proposed law would also allow cannabis retailers to offer curbside pickup.
The House approved the final version of LD1827by a 72-60 vote. The Senate passed the measure by a 19-14 vote. Gov. Janet Mills took no action on the measure before the signing deadline and the bill became law without her signature on April 26. The law will go into effect on July 19.
EFFECT ON FEDERAL PROHIBITION
Under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970, the federal government maintains a 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.
Maine legalized medical marijuana in 1999 and established a medical marijuana program in 2009. The state legalized recreational marijuana by voter initiative in 2016. These acts 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 expansion of the law to allow delivery underscores an important strategic point. 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.