West Virginia Bill Would Legalize Marijuana; Foundation to Nullify Federal Prohibition

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Jan. 23, 2018) – A West Virginia bill would legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Passage of the bill would take another step toward nullifying federal cannabis prohibition in effect in the state.

House Bill 3035 (HB3035) was introduced by Del. Sean Hornbuckle (D-Cabell) on Jan. 10. The legislation would allow adults 21 or older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana (currently a civil offense punishable by a maximum fine of $500) and grow up to six plants, up to three of them mature, per household. Individuals under the age of 21 caught purchasing or possessing marijuana would be charged with a misdemeanor and could be fined up to $800.

“I think on the economic side of legalizing marijuana, it would do good going forward with not just being a one-time fix,” Del. Hornbuckle said last year to the Times West Virginian. “Also delving into reducing the Department of Corrections lail bill will help the state financially as well.”

Despite the federal prohibition on marijuana, measures such as HB3035 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.

Legalization of marijuana in West Virginia would remove another 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, West 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.


Last year, West Virginia legalized medical marijuana. Passage of HB3035 would further ignore federal prohibition and nullify it in practice in the state. 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.


HB3035 was referred to the House Health & Human Resources 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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