Last month, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill allowing students to consume medical marijuana at school. The new law expands the state’s medical marijuana program despite federal prohibition.
A bipartisan coalition of two representatives and a senator sponsored House Bill 1095 (HB1095). Under the new law, school districts in the state must allow students with a medical marijuana card and parental permission to consume marijuana-infused products for medical purposes on school grounds, aboard a school bus, or while attending a school-sponsored event. Schools will be required to formulate policies accomodating such students.
This is another example of the rapidly expanding availability of marijuana despite federal prohibition.
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.
Washington legalized medical marijuana in 1998 and the program has expanded several times since. In 2012, voters approved a measure legalizing marijuana for recreational use. In so doing, the state removed a massive 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 HB1095 further undermines prohibition make it that much more difficult for the federal government to enforce it in Washington.
A GROWING MOVEMENT
Washington joins a growing number of states simply ignoring federal prohibition, and nullifying it in practice.
Along with Washington, Colorado, 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 2018, Vermont became the first state to legalize marijuana through a legislative act. and Michigan passed a ballot measure legalizing cannabis for general use.
With 33 states including Washington 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 Washington demonstrates another important reality. Once a state puts laws in place legalizing cannabis, they tend to eventually expand. HB1095 serves as 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. It also demonstrates an important strategic point. Passing bills that take a step forward sets the stage, even if they aren’t perfect. Opening the door clears the way for additional steps. You can’t take the second step before you take the first.