New York Assembly Committee Passes Bill to Expand Access to Medical Marijuana

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 11, 2016) – Last Tuesday, an Assembly committee passed a bill that would expand access to medical marijuana in the state. The bill would further open up the medicinal cannabis market in the state, and solidify the foundation to block federal prohibition.

Asm. Richard N. Gottfried (D – New York City), along with a bipartisan coalition of 14 assembly members, introduced Assembly Bill 9553 (A9553) on March 16. The legislation would allow patients with valid medical marijuana cards from other states to possess and access medicinal cannabis in New York. The bill would also create an advisory committee made up of health care practitioners, patients or representatives of patients, experts in the regulation of controlled substances for medical use, medical marijuana industry professionals and law enforcement to help state regulatory agencies implement and administer the medical marijuana program.

The Assembly Health committee passed the A9553 on April 5 and referred it to the Assembly Codes Committee for further consideration.

The New York legislature passed a bill legalizing and regulating medical marijuana in 2014. AO9553 is intended to take the next step and help facilitate implementation and operation of the state program. In a memo accompanying the bill, the sponsors explain the reason for extending reciprocity to medical marijuana users from other states.

“The medical marijuana law does not include provisions for recognizing patients certified in other states. Currently 23 states plus the District of Columbia and territory of Guam allow medical use of marijuana. Patients who went through certification processes in those locations should not have to go through another entire certification process in New York, particularly when many medical marijuana patients need timely and consistent medical care.”

FEDERAL PROHIBITION

Passage of this bill would expand the marijuana market in New York. but federal prohibition would remain in place.

Of course, the federal government lacks any lawful 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 passage of A9553 would in no way alter federal law, it would take another step toward thwarting in effect the federal ban. Introduction of this legislation demonstrates how local and state action can effectively stop federal prohibition, and how one step leads to other steps and a growing market. Passage of the bill would represents yet another step forward. If ultimately passed, it will further expand the medical marijuana market and drive another nail into the coffin of federal prohibition.

When states open the door by removing a layer of law, people push through and expand markets. When that happens, the federal government can do very little to stop it. In fact, state and local enforcement props up prohibition. With that removed, the feds become essentially a paper tiger.

FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By easing the city ordinances, the Washington D.C. council would has removed 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 and local assistance.

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 blocking 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,” Tenth Amendment Center founder and executive director Michael Boldin said.