Minnesota Bills Would Legalize Marijuana; Thwart Federal Prohibition

ST. PAUL, Minn. (Mar. 3, 2017) – Two Minnesota bills would legalize marijuana for recreational use in the state. Passage would also take a big step toward blocking federal cannabis prohibition in practice in the state.

House Bill 926 (HF926) was introduced by Rep. Jason Metsa (DFL-Virginia) and 12 co-sponsors, while House Bill 927 (HF927) was introduced by Rep. Jon Applebaum (DFL- Minnetonka) and seven co-sponsors. Both bills would legalize marijuana under a tax-and-regulate system enforced at the state level.

HF926 is a proposed constitutional amendment and would put the following question to the voters:

“Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to allow individuals 21 years of age or older to consume and use marijuana and marijuana products for personal use; to permit the possession, cultivation, processing, transportation, and sale of marijuana, marijuana accessories, and marijuana products within the state; and to provide for taxation of marijuana and marijuana products within the state?”

HF926 would legalize the recreational use of marijuana, although certain restrictions would still apply, including:

(1) individuals shall have to show proof of age before purchasing marijuana;
(2) selling, distributing, or transferring marijuana to individuals under the age of 21 shall remain illegal;
(3) driving under the influence of marijuana shall remain illegal;

Minnesota also has the opportunity to pass a bill to legalize marijuana without amending the state constitution. HF927 would task the state commissioner of health to promulgate rules and regulations encompassing licensing, security, labeling, restrictions on advertising to minors, and more. Medical marijuana provisions that are currently in effect would not be altered by the bill.

HF927 contains provisions that would protect the privacy rights of marijuana consumers and shop owners to prevent the likelihood of federal persecution. The bill reads, in part:

(1) a consumer shall not be required to provide a retail marijuana store with personal information other than government-issued identification to determine the consumer’s age in order to purchase marijuana or marijuana products; and

(2) a retail marijuana store shall not be required to acquire and record personal information about consumers other than information typically acquired in a financial transaction conducted at an on-sale liquor licensee.

“Minnesotans are rightfully developing different attitudes on marijuana,” Rep. Applebaum said in a press release. “Other states’ successes, along with the failed prohibition attempts of others, validated the need for a statewide conversation,” he said.

Despite the federal prohibition on marijuana, measures such as HF926 and HF927 remain perfectly lawful, and the feds can do little if anything to stop them in practice.

LEGALITY

The federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970 prohibits all of this behavior. Of course, the federal government lacks any legal 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 marijuana in Minnesota would remove a 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 mostly ending state prohibition, Minnesota essentially sweeps 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.

A GROWING MOVEMENT

Minnesota can join a growing number states simply ignoring federal prohibition, and nullifying it in practice. Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska have already legalized recreational cannabis with California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts set to join them after ballot initiatives in favor of legalization were passed in those states earlier this month.

With more than two-dozen states allowing cannabis for medical use as well, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition any more.

“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,” policy analyst Michael Boldin said.

WHAT’S NEXT?

HF926 and HF927 will need to pass in the House Health and Human Services Reform Committee before they can be considered by the full House.