MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (May 22, 2023) – Last week, the Minnesota House and Senate gave final approval to a bill to legalize marijuana for adult use in the state despite ongoing federal cannabis prohibition.
Rep. Zack Stephenson and 34 cosponsors introduced House Bill 100 (HF100) back in January. Under the final version of the bill passed in both the House and Senate, adults 21 and over could legally possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana in public. They would also be able to have up to 2 pounds of processed marijuana in their homes and grow up to 8 cannabis plants (4 mature).
The legislation also creates a licensing and regulation scheme for the commercial cultivation and sale of marijuana under a newly created Office of Cannabis Management. Stephenson told Reason that it would take 12 to 18 months to get retail sales going.
The law includes provisions allowing marijuana use at specially licensed businesses and events.
HF100 also includes provisions to automatically expunge misdemeanor marijuana possession records and creates a review board to consider resentencing individuals with felony marijuana convictions.
EFFECT ON FEDERAL PROHIBITION
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.
When Gov. Walz signs HF100, Minnesota will become the 23rd state to legalize marijuana for adult use despite ongoing cannabis prohibition.
Minnesota legalized medical marijuana in 2014. The legalization of marijuana for adult use takes the next step and removes another 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. 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 2022, and Delaware joining in 2023, there are now 37 states allowing cannabis for medical use, and 22 legalizing it 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.”
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