By Shane Trejo
Last month, Governor John Sununu signed two bills into law that will expand the state’s medical marijuana program. These measures further nullify the federal prohibition on cannabis in practice in the state.
Rep. Eric Schleien (R-Hillsborough) sponsored House Bill 157 (HB157) and House Bill 160 (HB160). The legislation expanded the state’s medical marijuana program. HB157 adds chronic pain to the list of qualifying conditions for patients to receive medical marijuana, and HB160 allows individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder to access medical marijuana.
HB157 passed the House on Mar. 8 by a 301-47 vote, and then passed the Senate on Apr. 20 by an 18-5 vote. HB160 passed the House on Mar. 8 by a 302-46 vote, and then cleared the Senate on a voice vote. Gov. Sununu signed HB157 into law on Jun. 16, and signed HB160 into law on Jun. 28.
“There’s been a lot of research on this which shows that doctors prescribe fewer opioids in states where medical cannabis is an option for pain, and those states have lower fatal overdose rates,” Rep. Schleien said in a written statement defending his reforms.
The New Hampshire legislature passed a law legalizing medical marijuana in 2013. The Department of Health and Human Services began pre-registering patients for medical marijuana ID cards in the fall of 2015, and the first dispensary opened last April. Allowing patients who suffer from these two condition to access medical marijuana further accelerates the medicinal cannabis program in New Hampshire.
EFFECT ON FEDERAL PROHIBITION
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New Hampshire’s medical marijuana program removes one layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana, but federal prohibition remains 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 state law does not alter federal law, it takes a 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 state prohibition, New Hampshire essentially sweeps away part 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
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 last year. Having already legalized medical marijuana to a certain extent, New Hampshire has relaxed their restrictions against cannabis even further in 2017.
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.
The expansion of the state’s medical marijuana law also demonstrates another important reality. Once a state puts laws in place legalizing marijuana, it tends to eventually expand. Once the state tears down some barriers, markets develop and demand expands. That creates pressure to further relax state law. These bills represent more steps forward for patients seeking alternative treatments and a further erosion of unconstitutional federal marijuana prohibition.
HB157 goes into effect on Aug. 15, and HB160 goes into effect on Aug. 27.