With California set to completely rock the industry with recreational legalization beginning in January, that state and others are beginning to up the anty when it comes to testing the waters of full and complete legalization.
The California state legislative body recently created a joint resolution calling for Congress to reschedule cannabis, which would basically free up the plant for further study.
Although this isn’t the best approach for legalization at the federal level – advocates have pushed for descheduling entirely instead of rescheduling, arguing that rescheduling from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2 doesn’t go far enough to completely open the industry to business development and growth – the resolution is seen as a significant move while the state moves closer to the recreational startup date.
The resolution, SJR-5, “The Federal Rescheduling of Marijuana From a Schedule 1 Drug”, was filed on September 22. It reads in part:
“Resolved by the Senate and the Assembly of the State of California, jointly, that the Legislature urges the Congress of the United States to pass a law to reschedule marijuana or cannabis and its derivatives from a Schedule I drug to an alternative schedule, therefore allowing the legal research and development of marijuana or cannabis for medical use and allowing for the legal commerce of marijuana or cannabis so that businesses dealing with marijuana or cannabis can use traditional banks or financial institutions for their banking needs, which would result in providing a legal vehicle for those businesses to pay their taxes, including, but not limited to, payroll taxes, unsecured property taxes, and applicable taxes on the products sold in accordance with state and local laws.”
The resolution called on the president to sign the legislation, and that copies of the resolution be distributed to the vice president, the speaker of the House of Representatives, the majority leader of the U.S. senate, and each senator and representative from California.
While most cannabis industry movers and shakers would expect a big state like California to submit a resolution like this – a state that will collect millions in cannabis state revenue by this time next year – smaller states are taking their shot as well, taking steps on the state level.
For example, Wisconsin, so far lagging behind in legalization efforts, took the issue even further on the state level. In late August, a bill was introduced that would legalize adult use marijuana under a tax-and-regulate system enforced at the state level similar to alcohol.
Under the proposed law as outlined in AB482 introduced by Democrat Representative Melissa Sargeant, a Wisconsin resident who is at least 21 could legally possess no more than two ounces of marijuana and a nonresident of Wisconsin who is at least 21 could possess no more than one-quarter ounce of marijuana.
The legislation would also create a licensing structure for the cultivation, processing and sale of marijuana. Additionally, the bill would create a process for medical marijuana use. The bill prohibits the sale of marijuana for recreational use via mail, telephone, or internet, and prohibits the use of marijuana in public.
The bill stated in part: “Current law prohibits a person from manufacturing, distributing, or delivering marijuana; possessing marijuana with the intent to manufacture, distribute, or deliver it; possessing or attempting to possess marijuana; using drug paraphernalia; or possessing drug paraphernalia with the intent to produce, distribute, or use a controlled substance. This bill changes state law so that state law permits both recreational use of marijuana and medical use of marijuana.”
“This bill is so much more than legalizing marijuana—it’s about legalizing opportunity and prosperity,” Sargent said in a report from the Tenth Amendment Center. “The state budget was due two weeks ago, and Wisconsin simply can’t afford to wait any longer. We deserve a real plan to create new jobs and stimulate our lagging economy, and that’s what this bill is.”
If AB482 is successful this year, the center report states, Wisconsin would be the first state to legalize recreational marijuana through the state legislature rather than the ballot initiative process. But it wouldn’t be the first state that tried that legalization method, widely considered a more difficult process than the usual ballot initiative process.
Last spring, Vermont was the first state to legalize cannabis through its state legislature, but that measure was vetoed by Republican governor Phil Scott.
Despite the federal prohibition on marijuana, measures such as AB482 remain perfectly constitutional, and the feds can do little if anything to stop them in practice, according to the Tenth Amendment report.
Wisconsin could join a growing number of states that are simply ignoring federal prohibition, and nullifying it in practice. Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska were the first states to legalize recreational cannabis; California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts joined them after ballot initiatives in favor of legalization passed last year.
According to the report, with more 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.