RICHMOND, Va. (Jan. 8, 2017) – A bill introduced in the Virginia Senate would decriminalize marijuana possession. Passage into law would take a step toward nullifying federal cannabis prohibition in effect in the state.
Introduced by Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), Senate Bill 111 (SB111) would make marijuana possession “subject to a civil penalty of no more than $50, upon a second violation is subject to a civil penalty of no more than $100, and upon a third or subsequent violation is subject to a civil penalty of no more than $250.”
There could be additional penalties levied at the discretion of the court for marijuana possession offenses. SB111 allows a court to “deprive the person so penalized of the privilege to drive or operate a motor vehicle, engine, or train in the Commonwealth for a period of six months from the date of such judgment.”
However, despite the possible consequences for simple possession, passage of SB111 would chip away at marijuana prohibition in the Old Dominion State.
“We cannot continue to hide behind a fear of a plant in our criminal code,” Sen. Ebbin said in a Washington Post report.
Despite the federal prohibition on marijuana, measures such as SB111 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 Virginia would remove a layer of laws prohibiting the possession 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, Virginia 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.
Passage of SB111 would begin to erode federal prohibition and that the first step toward nullifying it in practice in the state.
A GROWING MOVEMENT
Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska were the first states to legalized recreational cannabis, with California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts joining them after ballot initiatives in favor of legalization were passed in those states last November.
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.
SB111 was referred to the Senate Courts of Justice Committee where it will need to pass by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.