AUSTIN, Texas (Dec. 26, 2022) – A bill prefiled in the Texas Senate would legalize marijuana for personal use despite ongoing federal cannabis prohibition.
Sen. Sarah Eckhardt (D) filed Senate Bill 209 (SB209) on Nov. 14. The bill would create programs to license and regulate the possession, cultivation and distribution of marijuana for personal use. Adults 21 years of age or older would be allowed to possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis as well as cultivate up to 12 cannabis plants for personal use. The bill would also create a regulatory framework and licensure for commercial cultivation and retail sales of cannabis.
Under current law, doctors in Texas can recommend “low THC” cannabis products with a THC concentration under 1 percent for qualifying patients for medical use.
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 low-THC medicinal cannabis removed a small layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana in the state even though federal prohibition remains in effect. The creation of a broader medical marijuana system would wipe 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 in November, there are now 37 states allowing cannabis for medical use, and 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.”
SB209 will be officially introduced when the 2023 session of the Texas legislature kicks off on Jan. 10. At that time, it will receive a committee assignment. It will need to receive a hearing and pass the committee by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.