New Vermont Law Will Increase Access to Medical Marijuana, Further Nullify Federal Prohibition

By Shane Trejo

A Vermont bill to fully legalize medical marijuana for qualifying patients was signed into law last week by Gov. Phil Scott. The new measure takes another step toward effectively nullifying the unconstitutional federal prohibition on the same.

Introduced by Sen. Dick Sears (D-Bennington) and six co-sponsors, Senate Bill 16 (S.16) expands the existing laws on the books pertaining to medical marijuana to greatly expand access for qualifying patients. The Senate initially passed S.16 in February. An amended version was passed by the House on May 2 by a 130-16 vote. The Senate suspended the rules, and approved the  amended bill on May 10. The bill was sent back to the House, and then to Gov. Scott who signed it into law.

“I think it’ll help an awful lot of people to relieve symptoms of various ailments,” Sen. Sears said.

Patients would be able to qualify for medical marijuana if they suffered from one or more of the following ailments listed in S.16:

(A) cancer, multiple sclerosis, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, or the treatment of these conditions, if the disease or the treatment results in severe, persistent, and intractable symptoms;

(B) a disease, medical condition, or its treatment that is chronic, debilitating, and produces one or more of the following intractable symptoms: cachexia or wasting syndrome; chronic pain; severe nausea; or seizures; or

(C) other disease, condition, or treatment as determined in writing by a qualifying patient’s health care professional.

The new law will allow medical marijuana to be advertised as long as it is “not… located within 1,000 feet of a preexisting public or private school or licensed or regulated child care facility” and the advertisement makes it clear that the products are strictly for individuals aged 21-or-older. Qualifying patients will be allowed to possess up to three ounces of usable marijuana. No more than eight dispensaries will be allowed to operate at one time throughout the state of Vermont.

Despite the federal prohibition on marijuana, measures such as S.16 remain perfectly constitutional, and the feds can do little if anything to stop them in practice.

LEGALITY

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The federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970 prohibits marijuana for any purpose. 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.

Legalization of medical marijuana in Vermont removes 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 curtailing state prohibition, Vermont has swept away much of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.

Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly annual 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 either. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.

A GROWING MOVEMENT

Vermont has joined a growing number that are 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,” Tenth Amendment Center founder and executive director Michael Boldin said.

WHAT’S NEXT

The law will take effect on Jul. 1, 2017.

Shane Trejo writes for the Tenth Amendment Center, where this article first appeared.


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