MADISON, Wisc. (Dec 19, 2023) – A pair of bills filed in the Wisconsin legislature would legalize marijuana for adults over 21 in the state, despite ongoing federal prohibition on the same.
A group of 36 representatives led by Rep. Darrin Madison prefiled Assembly Bill 506 (AB506) on Dec. 1. A companion bill, Senate Bill 486 (SB486), was prefiled by a group of 36 senators led by Sen. Melissa Agard on Dec. 1. The proposed law would legalize possession of up to 5 ounces of marijuana for either recreational or medicinal purposes. Persons over 21 would be able to legally grow up to six marijuana plants. The bill would also create a licensing and regulatory structure for the production, processing, and sale of marijuana for recreational use.
The bills include provisions relating to cannabis for medical use, including a medical marijuana registry, licensing and regulation of “compassion centers” and provisions authorizing the use of medical marijuana for patients visiting the state. The bills also include provisions to dismiss some convictions for marijuana-related offenses and expunge the records.
All of this is “illegal” under the current federal law.
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.
Currently, marijuana is completely illegal in Wisconsin. Legalizing marijuana would remove a huge layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana in Wisconsin 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. Missouri and Maryland legalized marijuana in November 2022. The Delaware legislature legalized marijuana in 2023, and Ohio voters approved marijuana for adult use in the November election. Currently, 38 states allow cannabis for medical use, and 24 have legalized it for 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.”
Both AB506 and SB486 will be officially introduced when the Wisconsin legislature convenes on Jan. 4, 2024. They will need to be assigned to committees, receive a hearing, and pass the committees by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.
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