CONCORD, N.H. (April 11, 2018) – Yesterday, a New Hampshire Senate committee passed a bill that would prohibit the release of any information from the state’s medical marijuana registry to the federal government without a warrant. Passage of the legislation would take another small step toward nullifying federal cannabis prohibition in effect.
A coalition of five representatives – two Libertarian, two Republican, and one Democrat – prefiled House Bill 1672 (HB1672) last November. The legislation would add the following language to existing privacy protections established for patients registered to use medicinal cannabis in the state.
“Requests by federal authorities for any information relative to users of therapeutic cannabis contained in the registry shall require a search warrant issued by a judge based on probable cause.”
On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed HB1672 with a do-pass recommendation and no amendments. The House approved the measure 313-18 last month.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants the federal government to crack down on medical marijuana. Currently, the Department of Justice is barred from spending funds to prosecute medical marijuana users in states that have legalized medicinal cannabis. Last May, Sessions sent a letter to congressional leadership emploring them to lift the ban.
“I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime.”
So far, Congress has kept the ban in place, but the administration continues to push. Passage of HB1672 would make it more difficult for the feds to prosecute medical marijuana users in New Hampshire if Sessions gets his way. It would prevent the DoJ from obtaining lists of individuals on the state registry. Under the proposed law, the feds would only be able to obtain information on specific individuals with probable cause.
EFFECT ON FEDERAL PROHIBITION
Under the federal 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 cannabis 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.
New Hampshire’s medical marijuana program removes one layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana, but federal prohibition remains in place.
FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. When states stop enforcing marijuana laws, they sweep 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 HB1672 would further limit that state assistance and make it that much more difficult for Sessions and his minions to enforce prohibition in the Live Free or Die State.
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. HB1672 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.
HB1672 will now move to the full Senate for consideration.