If The Feds Legalize Marijuana, What Does That Mean For The States/Territories?

Let’s say that the House and Senate approve a measure to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, and the POTUS signs it, effective immediately.

For the states that haven’t legalized recreational, or neither recreational nor medical, what does federal legalization mean in a practical sense? Could those states still continue to prosecute for cannabis possession/sale/whatever?

Sure, why not? There are thousands of state laws that criminalize things that are legal under federal laws.

There are firearms that the feds allow citizens to own, like ‘assault riffles’, but some states ban them. You can’t legally transport them thru those states, even on a non-stop drive.

If all the new law does is remove cannabis from the federal schedules, then states will remain free to ban it. But some states reference the federal schedules in their own laws, which means the federal change could effectively change some states’ laws directly. For example, Ohio has a recently-enacted (still not in force) law that that says when Congress changes the controlled substance schedules, Ohio does so automatically as well so long as the state pharmacy board doesn’t override the change.

In theory, Congress could try to pre-empt the state laws, on the basis that states are unduly restricting commerce, but it would have to do so explicitly.

Here in CA, it’s 100% legal, but many towns ban the sale.

A state is generally going to be free to regulate (or prohibit) a drug, even if that drug is not listed as a controlled substance by the federal government.

Indeed. Even today, plenty of U.S. counties and municipalities don’t allow the sale (and even, in some cases, possession and consumption) of alcohol. There are three states (Kansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee) are “dry by default,” meaning that, in those states, alcohol is only legal in counties that have explicitly legalized it.

At the end of prohibition, a few states remained dry. OK, I think and maybe MS. For the latter I was once (1963 I think) in a bar in Biloxi that displayed its Black Market Liquor License. Around the same time, there was a suburb of Philly that was legally dry, at least no bars or (state) liquor stores allowed.

Are you sure there are currently places in the USA (not counting things like prisons, parks or reservations) where of-age American citizens cannot legally drink alcohol in their own homes, even if they have to drive to a “Wet” county to initially buy it?

ETA—I knew about Alaska, but thought that those laws only were on reservations. I can’t tell if that is still the case or not.

Similarly, California has a lot of regulations about known or suspected carcinogens that don’t match any other state or the federal government. They’re allowed to do that, because it’s their state.

And even those states whose own laws reference the federal laws, if they want, could change their laws to independently ban marijuana, if they want to.

The general principle in the US is that the states can pass whatever laws they want, while the federal government needs specific Constitutional justification for the laws they pass, but that if a federal law and a state law are actually in conflict, the federal law takes precedence. Lately, it’s become accepted for the federal government to use some fairly tenuous justifications (most often, the Interstate Commerce Clause), but they still need that justification. The states don’t.

If Trump wants to guarantee re-election, he should promise this- his 30% base plus about 15-20% more pot fans would pretty much do it.

I’m not sure – it’s not an area of particular expertise of mine. :slight_smile:

Scanning through the Wikipedia list, other than Alaska, the only example I can find of what looks to be a ban on at-home consumption is a town in New York.

Federal okay for pot would make it much easier for pot industry to deal with banks. Currently it can be risky for a financial institution to deal with the profits of state legal pot industries.

Even weirder than that, they appear not to have figured out the legality of how to deal with the Indian tribes and cannabis. If the tribal reservation is out in the middle of no where like most (thus meeting all requirements for opening a grow operation/dispensary that is far enough from children, schools, etc.), then they should be allowed to apply for a license and do it…oh except it is sort-of federal land and is governed by the Feds through the Department of Indian Affairs…so is it legal? Who knows? That issue is being figured out in San Diego, CA right now…

For anyone not wanting to read the story, an Indian tribe that tried to open a casino in the middle of no where that went bust decided to open a pot dispensary in that old location instead, and the rest of the Indian tribes, who have very successful casinos, are wanting to copy their model and cash in.


Helmut Doork, the workings of the US federalized system of government is fair game for GQ. How Trump might win election is not. For that, you’ll want the forum entitled (oddly enough) “Elections”.