Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Weed Patrol

Ask and ye shall receive. You guys brought up some good topics so I plan on writing on them in the order received. This is the first, and it's about marijuana and its legality.

For those keeping score at home, under the Obama Administration, the Justice Department has maintained its stance against marijuana despite growing support for its decriminalization or legalization in various parts of the country. And the DEA, under new direction from Justice, has stepped up raids of marijuana dispensaries during his Presidency.

To be honest, this was a surprise to me. I had heard Bill Maher rant (before election season) about how unhappy he was with President Obama and his continued (some would say enthusiastic) litigation of the Drug War, especially when it comes to marijuana. But there's overwhelming evidence that this is the truth, and it's interesting because it is anathema to large swaths of his own Party and supporter base. To be honest, I have no idea why Obama hasn't directed Justice to either stop or weaken the enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act.

To those who say that the President is constrained by Congress and the letter of the law, it's patently absurd. The executive has extreme discretion over the enforcement of the myriad laws and regulations of the US Code and Federal Register. Deportation of undocumented (illegal) immigrants have accelerated under the Obama Administration despite a plummeting rate in illegal immigration, and that's entirely under the discretion of the President and Attorney General Eric Holder.

Perhaps it's due to the Electoral College. Voters in Florida, Ohio, Iowa, etc control the Presidency. And because voters in battleground states tend to be tougher on drugs, the President has to impose the will of swing state voters on the rest of the nation. If enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act declines precipitously in Obama's second term, then we'll have a better idea whether this is true or not.

I suspect that as older people start dying off and a new generation of middle class voters factors into electoral politics, that we will eventually see the full legalization of marijuana. But in the interregnum of unenlightened drug policy, the states are choosing to be progressive while the Federal government continues its enforcement of Jim Crow. What gives?

Democrats and progressives usually roll their eyes at the mention of states' rights, but this is probably one area where they will agree with their political counterparts. Certain states, particularly those on the West Coast, have decided that it's in the public's best interest to decriminalize/legalize marijuana. But the Federal government continues prosecuting the Drug War despite the dismay and protests of local and state officials.

I believe in states' rights (and individual rights, while we're at it) and the closer the government is to the people, the better. I don't think it's right for the Federal government to enforce a national law when a local law says otherwise and (this is the important part) doesn't hurt anybody. It's a victimless crime. And the Federal government shouldn't be in the business of moralizing from its perch on Capitol Hill.


  1. Can you give more quantitative backing for your assertion that "voters in battleground states tend to be tougher on drugs".

    1. Actually, I was just looking at a map of states that have decriminalized recreational or medicinal marijuana and quite a few battleground states do have pretty lax laws.

      There goes my original feeble attempt at explaining Obama's enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act. I really have no clue. Maybe Holder (or Obama as well) just had a bad experience with drugs and he actually does believe in litigating the War on Drugs?

  2. Thanks for the post, Jay. While most Libertarians believe in full legalization of all drugs, I don't share that view, but I have come to believe that pot should be, and taxed and regulated like alcohol. I would also recommend a book called Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana - Medical, Recreational and Scientific by Martin A. Lee. An interesting read although there is much hyperbole and a definite anti-Republcan slant that sometimes borders on paranoia.