SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (Feb. 8, 2016) – A Utah bill that would legalize medical marijuana and nullify in practice the unconstitutional federal prohibition of cannabis passed an important Senate committee last week.

Sen. Mark Madsen (R-Saratoga Springs) introduced Senate Bill 73 (SB73) last month. The legislation sets up a framework that would allow qualifying patients to legally obtain and use medicinal cannabis. Utah residents meeting criteria outlined in bill would be able to obtain a medical marijuana card. The legislation also sets up a licensing program for medical marijuana dispensaries in the state.

The Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee passed SB73 4-1. The bill will now move on to the full House for further consideration.

Tenth Amendment Center founder and executive director Michael Boldin said passage of a marijuana bill out of committee in Utah was extremely significant considering the very conservative nature of the state.

“A few years ago, I was talking with a prominent liberty activist in Utah. We were trying to come up with Tenth Amendment related bills to work on that would bring people from left to right together. When I suggested marijuana, he said, ‘Not in Utah.’ This just goes to show how far this issue has come in a short amount of time.”

Despite federal marijuana prohibition, measures such as SB73 remain perfectly constitutional, and there is little if anything the feds can do to stop them in practice.

EFFECT ON FEDERAL PROHIBITION

Passage of this bill would partially remove one layer of law prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana in Utah, but federal prohibition would remain in place.

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.

While this Utah bill would not alter federal law, they would take a step toward nullifying in effect the federal ban. FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By easing the state laws, the Utah legislature would remove some 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.

If the Utah legislature passes SB73, the Beehive State would join a growing number of states simply ignoring federal prohibition. Colorado, Washington state and Alaska have all legalized both recreational and medical marijuana, and 23 states now allow cannabis for medical use. With nearly half the country legalizing marijuana, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition any more. The feds need state cooperation to fight the “drug war,” and that has rapidly evaporated in the last few years with state legalization, practically nullifying the ban.

“The lesson here is pretty straight forward. 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,” Boldin said.

NEXT UP

SB73 will now move on to the full House for a vote..

For Utah: Support these bills by following all the steps at THIS LINK (archived).

For other states: Take action to support nullifying marijuana prohibition at this link.

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.