COLUMBIA, S.C. (April 20, 2018) – Yesterday, a South Carolina House committee passed a bill that would legalize medical marijuana for qualifying patients in the state, setting the foundation to nullify unconstitutional federal cannabis prohibition in practice.
A bipartisan coalition introduced House Bill 3521 (H3521) last year and it carried over to the 2018 session. The legislation would authorize the use of cannabis by patients suffering from an extensive list of “debilitating medical conditions.” The bill would also set up a regulatory scheme authorizing doctors to recommend medical marijuana,for issuing cards to qualified patients, for establishing dispensaries and for regulating marijuana cultivation in the state.
According to the Times and Democrat, the House Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs Committee approved H3521 on Thursday.
“I believe we did the right thing by approving this bill. Our intent is to help the thousands of patients who can benefit from this medical treatment, including retired military personnel and children who suffer from debilitating illnesses,” committee chair Rep. Leon Howard (D-Columbia) told the paper.
A similar bill (S212) is moving through the Senate.
Despite the federal prohibition on marijuana, measures such as H3521 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.
Legalization of medical marijuana in South Carolina would remove one 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 curtailing state prohibition, South Carolina 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
South Carolina could join 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 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.
H3521 now moves to the House floor for further consideration.