CONCORD, N.H. (Mar. 8, 2018) – On Tuesday, the New Hampshire House passed a bill to expand the state’s medical marijuana law to allow caregivers and patients to cultivate cannabis.
Rep. Robert Cushing (D-Hampton) introduced House Bill 1476 (HB1476) with 14 bipartisan co-sponsors. The legislation would allow medical marijuana caregivers and patients to grow up to six ounces of usable cannabis. Caregivers and patients growing medical marijuana would not be allowed to grow for more than one particular patient and would be restricted from growing more than two mature cannabis plants and 12 seedlings, where the plants are subject to public view, including to view from another private property, without the use of optical aids, with a total canopy of no more than 50 square feet.
HB1476 was given an ‘Ought to Pass’ recommendation by the House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee. On Tuesday, the full House agreed with a voice vote.
Despite the federal prohibition on marijuana, measures such as HB1476 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 federal government maintains complete prohibition of marijuana. 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.
Further legalization of medical marijuana in New Hampshire would remove one layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana, but federal prohibition remains on the books.
FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By curtailing state prohibition, New Hampshire could sweep away some of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.
Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly annual 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 either. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.
A GROWING MOVEMENT
New Hampshire is among a growing number of states simply ignoring federal prohibition, and nullifying it in practice. 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. In January, Vermont became the first state to legalize marijuana through a legislative act.
With 29 states including New Hampshire allowing cannabis for medical use, 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.
Expansion of medical marijuana laws in New Hampshire demonstrates another important reality. Once a state puts laws in place legalizing marijuana, it tends to eventually expand. HB1476 is a perfect example of this tendency. As the state tears down some barriers, markets develop and demand expands. That creates pressure to further relax state law. This bill represents a further erosion of unconstitutional federal marijuana prohibition.
HB1476 will now move to Senate for further consideration. It will first need to pass out of committee before moving forward.