JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Nov. 9, 2022) – Yesterday, Missouri voters passed a ballot measure legalizing the adult use of marijuana in the state despite ongoing federal cannabis prohibition.
Missouri voters approved Amendment 3 by a 53-47 vote with 99 percent of precincts reporting. Under the constitutional amendment, adults 21 and over can legally possess up to three ounces of marijuana. It also creates a licensing and regulatory scheme for retail sales. Individuals can grow up to six flowering plants, six immature plants and six clones.
All of this is illegal according to the federal government, and creates an environment for the people of Missouri to further nullify the unconstitutional federal prohibition in practice and effect.
The measure also includes provisions to create a program that will automatically review and expunge criminal records relating to non-violent marijuana-related offenses. Legal Missouri 2022 collected over 385,000 signatures to place the constitutional amendment on the ballot.
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.
The legalization of medical marijuana in Missouri in 2018 removed one layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana in the state even though federal prohibition remains in effect. The legalization of adult-use marijuana would erase more state prohibition laws from the books. 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, and Rhode Island legalized cannabis for adult use in 2022. With Missouri and Maryland legalizing marijuana yesterday, there are now 37 states allowing cannabis for medical use, and at least 21 legalizing for adult recreational use.
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.”