PHOENIX, Ariz. (Jan. 4, 2016) – Two bills prefiled in the Arizona legislature would effectively thwart federal marijuana prohibition in practice, one by fully legalizing marijuana for recreational usage and the other by decriminalizing the plant.
House Bill 2006 (HB2006) and House Bill 2007 (HB2007) were prefiled by Rep. Mark Cardenas (D-Phoenix) this month for introduction in the 2016 legislative session. HB2006 would legalize marijuana for recreational use while HB2007 would simply decriminalize the plant.
HB2006 would allow individuals in the state of Arizona aged twenty-one and older to do the following:
"1. Possess, consume, use, display, purchase or transport marijuana accessories or one ounce or less of marijuana.
2. Possess, grow, process or transport not more than five marijuana plants and the marijuana produced by the plants on the premises where the plants were grown.
3. Transfer, without remuneration, one ounce or less of marijuana and not more than five immature marijuana plants to a person who is at least twenty‑one years of age.
4. Assist another person who is at least twenty‑one years of age in any of the acts described in this subsection."
HB2007 would change the criminal code to reclassify marijuana as follows:
"An amount of marijuana not possessed for sale having a weight of less than one ounce is subject to a civil penalty of not more than one hundred dollars, except that if the person does not pay the penalty in full within ninety days, the penalty increases to double the original amount…
An amount of marijuana not possessed for sale having a weight of at least one ounce but less than two pounds is guilty of a petty offense…
An amount of marijuana not possessed for sale having a weight of two pounds or more is guilty of a class 3 misdemeanor."
The best thing about measures like these is that they are completely lawful, and there is little if anything the feds can do to stop them in practice.
EFFECT ON FEDERAL PROHIBITION
Passage of HB2006 and HB2007 would remove one layer of laws prohibiting the possession, cultivation or use of marijuana, but federal prohibition would remain in place.
Of course, the federal government lacks any 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 the Arizona bills would not alter federal law, it would take steps toward blocking in effect the federal ban. FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By erasing the state laws, the Arizona legislature would essentially sweep away 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 state legislature passes HB2006 and HB2007, Arizona 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 stopping the ban.
HB2006 and HB2007 will be formally introduced during the 2016 legislative session. Similar bills were introduced during the previous legislative session, but never even received a committee assignment. Rep. David Gowan (R-Sierra Vista), Speaker of the House, was personally responsible for holding up the bills.