Signed as Law: Utah Bill Expands Medical Marijuana Program Despite Federal Prohibition

By Michael Maharrrey

Last month, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed a bill into law expanding the state’s medical-marijuana program despite federal prohibition.

Sen. Evan Vickers (R-Cedar City) introduced Senate Bill 121 (SB121) on Feb. 11. The legislation makes a number of tweaks to the states’ medical marijuana program that will help expand access for patients. Significantly, the new law doubles the caps on the number of patients to whom a doctor can recommend marijuana from 300 to 600 for doctors approved by the program. It also adjusts dosing parameters to allow for more flexibility.

The bill also includes provisions that should ensure a steady supply of medical marijuana. Under the new law, a cannabis cultivation facility can now operate using up to two locations.

SB121 also creates an expungement process for some medical marijuana patients convicted of marijuana use before the passage of Proposition 2.

The law makes a number of other minor changes to the regulation of cultivation facilities to streamline the process.

The Senate passed SB121 by a 24-0 margin and the House approved the measure 70-0. With Gov. Herbert’s signature, the law went into immediate effect.


While medical marijuana has become widely accepted across the U.S., the federal government still claims it is illegal. As we’ve seen with immigration sanctuary cities, when state and local enforcement ends, the federal government has an extremely difficult time enforcing their acts.

Under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970, the federal government maintains complete prohibition of marijuana. 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.

Utah’s medical marijuana program removes a layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana, and the passage of SB121 expands that, but federal prohibition remains in place.

FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By curtailing state prohibition, Oklahoma sweeps part 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.


Utah joins a growing number of states simply ignoring federal prohibition, and nullifying it in practice.

Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska were the first states to legalize recreational cannabis, and California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts joined them after ballot initiatives in favor of legalization passed in November 2016. Michigan followed suit when voters legalized cannabis for general use in 2018. Vermont became the first state to legalize marijuana through a legislative act in 2018. Illinois followed suit in 2019.

With 33 states including allowing cannabis for medical use, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition anymore.

“The lesson here is pretty straightforward. 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 passage of SB121 demonstrates another important strategic reality. Once a legalizes marijuana – even if only in a very limited way – it tends to eventually expand. As the state tears down some barriers, markets develop and demand expands. That creates pressure to further relax state law. These new laws represent a further erosion of unconstitutional federal marijuana prohibition.

Article source: Tenth Amendment Center

Michael Maharrey [send him email] is the Communications Director for the Tenth Amendment Center. He is from the original home of the Principles of ’98 – Kentucky and currently resides in northern Florida. See his blog archive here and his article archive here.He is the author of the book, Our Last Hope: Rediscovering the Lost Path to Liberty. You can visit his personal website at and like him on Facebook HERE

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