INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Jan. 9, 2024) – A pair of bills introduced in the Indiana Senate would legalize marijuana in the state despite ongoing federal cannabis prohibition.
Sen. Rodney Pol filed Senate Bill 99 (SB99) and Sen. David Niezgodski filed Senate Bill 107 (SB107) on Jan. 9. The bills would create a program to license and regulate the research, possession, cultivation and distribution of marijuana for both medical and recreational use. A qualifying medical marijuana patient would have to be at least 21 years old and have a qualifying medical condition. Possession of adult-use cannabis would be limited to 1 ounce in a 30-day period.
There is also a provision allowing people to expunge a marijuana-related conviction if the activity would be legalized under the bill.
Under current law, only products with low THC and high cannabidiol (CBD) are allowed in Indiana.
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. Legalizing marijuana 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. 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 SB99 and SB107 have been referred to the Senate Commerce & Technology Committee, where they will need a public hearing and a majority vote before they can advance.
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