Arizona Bill Would Decriminalize Marijuana Possession

PHOENIX, Ariz. (Dec. 20, 2017) – A bill pre-filed in the Arizona House would decriminalize marijuana possession. Passage into law during the 2018 legislative session would take another step toward further nullifying federal cannabis prohibition in effect in the state.

Rep. Mark Cardenas (D-Phoenix) prefiled House Bill 2014 (HB2014) for the 2018 legislative session. The legislation would eliminate criminal penalties for simple marijuana possession by making any offense “involving an amount of marijuana not possessed for sale having a weight of less than one ounce is subject to a civil penalty of not more than one hundred dollars.”

Additionally, subsequent penalties would also be reduced for serious marijuana possession and distribution if HB2014 were passed.

“I don’t believe [small time marijuana users] should go away to prison and face hefty fines and possibly have their civil rights taken away,” Cardenas said, according to a report. “We shouldn’t have people that are being sentenced to long prison terms for simple possession of marijuana.”

Despite the federal prohibition on marijuana, measures such as HB2014 remain perfectly constitutional, and the feds can do little if anything to stop them in practice.


Under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970, the feds maintain complete prohibition of cannabis. Of course, the federal government lacks any constitutional authority to ban or regulate marijuana 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.

Decriminalization of marijuana in Arizona would remove a layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana, but federal prohibition will remain on the books.

FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By mostly ending state prohibition, Arizona essentially sweeps 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.


Arizona has already legalized marijuana for medical use. Passage of HB2014 would further ignore federal prohibition and take another step toward nullifying it in practice in Arizona. Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska have already legalized recreational cannabis, with California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts joining them after ballot initiatives in favor of legalization were passed in those states in 2016

With more than two-dozen states allowing cannabis for medical use as well, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition anymore.

“The lesson here is pretty straightforward. 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.


HB2014 will be introduced and considered during the 2018 legislative session. At thart time, it will be assignbed to a committee where it will need to pass by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.

About Tenth Amendment Center
The Tenth Amendment Center is a national think tank that works to preserve and protect the principles of strictly limited government through information, education, and activism. The center serves as a forum for the study and exploration of state and individual sovereignty issues, focusing primarily on the decentralization of federal government power as required by the Constitution. For more information visit the Tenth Amendment Center Blog.

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