On Wednesday, Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed a bill legalizing medical marijuana in the state. This takes a big step toward nullifying the unconstitutional federal prohibition on cannabis in practice.
Rep. Stephen Huffman (R) introduced House Bill 523 (HB523) on April 14. The legislation sets in motion the creation of a limited medical marijuana program in Ohio.
There is hereby established a medical marijuana control program in the department of commerce and the state board of pharmacy. The department shall provide for the licensure of medical marijuana cultivators and processors and the licensure of laboratories that test medical marijuana. The board shall provide for the licensure of retail dispensaries and the registration of patients and their caregivers. The department and board shall administer the program.
The new law establishes a “seed-to-sale” system for growing, testing and dispensing marijuana. Patients suffering from 20 medical conditions will now be able to access medicinal cannabis with some limitations. The law prohibits smoking marijuana and does not allow for home cultivation of cannabis. The law permits patients to use patches, edibles and vaping products.
The House passed the bill by a 71-26 margin on May 10. The Senate approved the measure 18-15 on May 25th. The House concurred with Senate amendments 67-29. With Kasich’s signature, the law will go into effect in 90 days.
Sen. Dave Burke (R-Marysville) carried HB523 in the Senate. He said growers could be cultivating marijuana within a year, with products on the shelves in 16 months. The law requires the program to be fully operational within two years.
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According to the Columbus Dispatch, polling indicates 90 percent of Ohioans support legalized medical marijuana. With passage of the bill, Ohioans for Medical Marijuana dropped its effort to put the issue on the November ballot, citing lack of money and other issues.
“This is a joyous day for the thousands of Ohioans who will finally be able to safely access much-needed medicine,” Ohioans for Medical Marijuana spokesman Aaron Marshall said. “We still have much work ahead of us to improve this imperfect law…”
Despite the federal prohibition on marijuana, measures such as HB523 remain perfectly constitutional, and the feds can do little if anything to stop them in practice.
EFFECT ON FEDERAL PROHIBITION
Ohio’s new law partially removes one layer of law prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana in the state, 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 Ohio law does not alter federal law, it takes an important 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 Ohio 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.
Ohio joins 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,” Tenth Amendment Center founder and executive director Michael Boldin said.