Madison, WI – Yet another state is moving towards legalizing cannabis for medical and recreational use. However, Wisconsin is going about it in a most Constitutional way. The state of Wisconsin introduced a bill last week that would effectively nullify the federal prohibition of marijuana in the state.
According to the 10th Amendment Center:
"Rep. Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) and 17 co-sponsors introduced Assembly Bill 482 (AB482) on Aug. 24. The legislation would legalize marijuana under a tax-and-regulate system enforced at the state level similar to alcohol. Under the proposed law, a Wisconsin resident who is at least 21 could legally possess no more than two ounces of marijuana and a nonresident of Wisconsin who is at least 21 could possess no more than one-quarter ounce of marijuana. The legislation would also create a licensing structure for the cultivation, processing and sale of marijuana. Additionally, the bill would create a process for medical marijuana use."
“This bill is so much more than legalizing marijuana—it’s about legalizing opportunity and prosperity,” Rep. Sargent said. “The state budget was due two weeks ago, and Wisconsin simply can’t afford to wait any longer. We deserve a real plan to create new jobs and stimulate our lagging economy, and that’s what this bill is.”
If successful, the legislation would make Wisconsin the first state to legalize cannabis through a state legislative process, as every other state has utilized a ballot initiative to effectively nullify the federal prohibition.
State nullification of federal marijuana prohibition is completely constitutional, with the feds having little, if any, recourse to stop the process. Despite the federal contention that the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) gives the federal government authority to completely prohibit cannabis within a state’s borders, one need only ask themselves why a constitutional amendment was necessary to enact a nationwide prohibition on alcohol to clearly see the flimsy basis on which the federal prohibition of cannabis stands.
While federal prohibition would remain on the books, the passage of AB482 would remove the vast majority of laws prohibiting the use and possession of marijuana under which people are prosecuted by law enforcement in Wisconsin.
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The reality is that law enforcement in Wisconsin makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law, according to FBI statistics. By choosing to end the state prohibition of cannabis, Wisconsin can effectively eliminate the basis for 99 percent of arrests for cannabis.
It’s clear the federal government lacks the resources to prohibit marijuana without the assistance of state governments. Figures indicate that it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s annual budget to simply investigate and raid the dispensaries in just the city of Los Angeles—a single city in just one state.
If this legislation passes, Wisconsin will become the latest of a growing number of states that have chosen to nullify marijuana prohibition. However, it would be the first state to legalize recreational marijuana through the state legislature rather than the ballot initiative process.
Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska were the first states to usurp the federal probation of cannabis for recreational use, only to be joined by California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts after successful ballot initiatives to legalize cannabis last year.
Additionally, a total of 29 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico now allow for comprehensive public medical marijuana and cannabis programs, while recently approved efforts in 18 states allow use of "low THC, high cannabidiol (CBD)" products for medical reasons in limited situations or as a legal defense, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
With a majority of states now allowing cannabis for medical use as well, the federal government finds themselves in a position where they can no longer sustain the ability to enforce marijuana prohibition.
“The lesson here is pretty straight forward. 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,” Tenth Amendment Center founder and executive director Michael Boldin said.
Currently, AB482 is in the Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety. The legislation will need to pass by a majority vote before it can be considered by the full State Assembly.