Tag: Cannabis laws

Cruz, Marijuana and States’ Rights

This remark is drawing some attention:

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas on Friday criticized President Barack Obama for not arresting people in Colorado who violated federal law by using marijuana.

“A whole lot of folks now are talking about legalizing pot. The brownies you had this morning, provided by the state of Colorado,” he jokingly said during his keynote speech at Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Policy Orientation.

“And you can make arguments on that issue,” Cruz continued. “You can make reasonable arguments on that issue. The president earlier this past year announced the Department of Justice is going to stop prosecuting certain drug crimes. Didn’t change the law.”

Voters in Colorado and Washington state voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in 2013, but federal law still prohibits the use of the drug. The Department of Justice announced in August of 2013 that it would not target for arrest adults who used marijuana in compliance with state laws.

Cruz said the Obama administration should continue imprisoning people for using marijuana until federal law is changed.

“You can go to Congress, you can get a conversation, you could get Democrats and Republicans who would say, ‘We ought to change our drug policy in some way,’ and you could have a real conversation, you could have hearings, you could look at the problem, you could discuss commonsense changes that maybe should happen or shouldn’t happen. This president didn’t do that. He just said, ‘The laws say one thing’ — and mind you these are criminal laws, these are laws that say if you do ‘X, Y, and Z’ you will go to prison. The president announced, ‘No, you won’t.’”

There is a small point to be made here. Marijuana use is still illegal under federal law, even it is legal under some state laws. The President is choosing not to enforce federal law.

The problem here is that our Congress has had ample opportunity to update federal law. In the wake of the Raich decision, there have been numerous attempt to change federal law so that it will respect the will of the states. This has not even been seriously considered by our Congress. They have not even had a real debate about it. They are so obsessed with never looking like hippy pot-smoker enablers, that they have refused to do anything. This “conversation” that Mr. Cruz talks about has not happened because it has been stomped down.

So I would turn this around. The correct criticism is of Congress, who have had nine years to change federal law and have refused to do so. I understand that Obama’s actions come from an Administration that has been happy to ignore the law whenever it suits them. But what we’re talking about here is standard-issue prosecutorial discretion. We don’t prosecute people for kiddie porn if they take pictures of their kids in swimsuits. We don’t prosecute people for jaywalking if they’re running across the street to fight a fire. And we don’t prosecute people for smoking pot when that would involve arresting tens of thousands of people.

However, this does cut both ways. The President could (and knowing him, likely will) rescind this promise at his discretion. A future President could do so. Under the current legal regime, people could smoke pot in Colorado for ten years and then suddenly find themselves in federal prison. So it is incredibly important that Congress move to recognize the states’ rights of Colorado and Washington (a subject Republicans are all about when it comes to abortion or gay rights). It is important that we do start this conversation in Congress. If only Ted Cruz knew a member of Congress who could get that conversation started …

That “conversation” is not something that will happen overnight. Even if Congress were amenable to changing federal law, there are anti-drug treaties we are bound to that will need to be changed. That could mean years of work and negotiation. Given the realities of the situation, I think basic prudence demands that we (1) agree to suspend federal marijuana prosecutions in states that have legalized it; (2) begin the process of revising federal law and international treaties to create a consistent legal regime.

Obama’s done Part 1. When will he and Congress start Part 2?

The Cult of Warren

I’ve been keeping my eye out for the next Lefty Icon who, like Obama, will become the revered leader of the “progressive” movement while simultaneously betraying everything it purports to believe. Ladies and gentlemen, Elizabeth Warren:

At a St. Patrick’s Day breakfast in South Boston this past weekend, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) took a jab at pro-legalization Republican State Representative Dan Winslow (R-Norfolk), who is currently vying for the Republican nomination for Senate in Massachusetts’s upcoming special election.

Addressing the crowd, Senator Warren said, “I advise everyone to pay very close attention to Dan Winslow’s platform. He has a 100 percent ranking from the gun lobby and he’s for the legalization of marijuana. He wants us armed and stoned.”

Let the record show that on Planet Warren, the only conceivable reason to support legal pot is to want everyone to get high.

Addendum: If you want to see Warren opposing legalization with a direct “no” rather than wrapping the sentiment in a St. Patrick’s Day breakfast joke, go here.

Warren is rapidly becoming a hero among the Lefties for her ignorant diatribe in the “you didn’t build that” vein and her (occasionally justified) criticisms of regulators at Senate hearings. The image she has built is the sensible woman who is also very liberal and says what liberals always wish their politicians would say.

In the end, however, she is just another politician who thinks we are idiots and government is God. This is why she supports financial regulation that hems in all our decisions and allows us to only put our money where she thinks we should. This is why she thinks a $22/hour minimum wage isn’t an absurdity. And this is why she of course supports the War on Drugs.

This won’t hurt her political prospects. Being the worst President in 20 years on marijuana policy never hurt Obama’s.

The Keystone Cops of Cannabis

Pivoting from Alex’s post on the need for new legal frameworks in the post-legalization era, I wanted to talk about the Obama Administration floating some trial balloons on how they are going to respond to Washington and Colorado legalizing pot.

It’s not promising.

One option is for federal prosecutors to bring some cases against low-level marijuana users of the sort they until now have rarely bothered with, waiting for a defendant to make a motion to dismiss the case because the drug is now legal in that state. The department could then obtain a court ruling that federal law trumps the state one.

A more aggressive option is for the Justice Department to file lawsuits against the states to prevent them from setting up systems to regulate and tax marijuana, as the initiatives contemplated. If a court agrees that such regulations are pre-empted by federal ones, it will open the door to a broader ruling about whether the regulatory provisions can be “severed” from those eliminating state prohibitions — or whether the entire initiatives must be struck down.

Another potential avenue would be to cut off federal grants to the states unless their legislatures restored antimarijuana laws, said Gregory Katsas, who led the civil division of the Justice Department during the George W. Bush administration.

Busting low level users? Suing the states? Once again, we see the legacy of Raich: a federal government empowered to use any and and all means to override state law.

There were a lot of people who speculated that re-election would empower Obama to “pivot” on the drug issue. I was skeptical, to say the least, because cracking down on medical marijuana wasn’t exactly a political winner for him in the first place. No one outside of a few libertarians decided their vote on Obama’s marijuana policy. Ardent drug warriors weren’t voting for Obama anyway and his supporters ignored his crackdowns. But the new rhetoric emerging from the Hypocrite Smoker in Chief shows that the Obama defenders were definitely smoking something if they thought things would change.

Notice what words and phrases do not appear in the New York Times article: pivot, possibly ending the war on drugs, whether our drug laws are doing more harm than good, the drug war a failure, crime and misery [the drug war] creates.

You’d think that if Obama were going to “pivot,” simply leaving alone two states that overwhelmingly legalized pot and gave him their electoral votes would be the best place to start.

Marijuana actually outpolled Obama in Colorado, Washington and Arkansas.

The Administration’s response is so disheartening that it has even caused Andrew Sullivan to deviate from his usual “we just have to trust that Obama has a long-term plan in mind” programming:

Well, since they’re asking: if they decide to treat the law-abiding citizens of Colorado and Washington as dangerous felons; if they decide to allocate their precious law enforcement powers to persecuting and arresting people for following a state law that they have themselves just passed by clear majorities; if they decide that opposing a near majority of Americans in continuing to prosecute the drug war on marijuana, even when the core of their own supporters want an end to Prohibition, and even when that Prohibition makes no sense … then we will give them hell.

Will we? Will we really, now? Obama has spent four years cracking down on legal medical marijuana in a way that George W. Bush never did and almost the entirety of the liberal media and the so-called “Obamacons” acted like toilets with the lids up while he did it. Have you seen a massive outrage from left wing blogs over the NYT article I quote above? Have you seen any of them even acknowledge it? Rachel Maddow did a whole show on how marijuana policy is changing. I scanned through it to see if she gave Obama hell for his policies. If she did, I missed it.

For four years, liberals have steadfastly ignored Obama’s repulsive marijuana policies. They did this, they said, because it was so important for Obama to win re-election and he needed liberal support on more important issues. But there are always more elections and the issues are just as important now as they were three months ago. Are the liberals really going to turn on Obama during a fiscal cliff showdown because of pot? Are they really going to let the GOP win 2014 and 2016 because of medical cannabis? I don’t think so.

The fact is that if Obama is going to be pushed on his marijuana policy, that push is going to have to come form the Right; from politicians who actually believe in state’s rights or have libertarian social views. The only other alternatives are the Supreme Court reversing Raich or a bunch of states uniting to openly and aggressively defy federal drug laws (e.g., by forbidding any state cooperation with drug raids or prosecuting federal agents for violating state law).

But the idea that Obama is going to reverse course on this is ridiculous. And the idea that his supporters will turn on him is even more so. There are too many people who have a vested interest in the Drug War. And the next time Obama defies special interests — on healthcare, banking, defense or law enforcement — will also be the first.

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