Vermont to Federal Drug Warriors: Mind Your Own Business

In contrast with Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire's craven capitulation to federal pressure, Vermont Gov. Pete Shumlin today signed a bill authorizing four dispensaries to supply patients with medical marijuana. Notably, Vermont's House of Representatives approved the bill, by a vote of 99 to 44, after Tristram J. Coffin, the U.S. attorney for Vermont, sent Shumlin and legislative leaders a letter warning that, contrary to reassurances from Attorney General Eric Holder, compliance with state law does not give medical marijuana suppliers any protection from federal prosecution. Gregoire cited a similar letter from U.S. attorneys in her state when she vetoed a bill that would have clarified the rules for growing and distributing medical marijuana.

The Marijuana Policy Project's Rob Kampia notes that eight of the 16 states that allow medical use of cannabis now have laws explicitly authorizing dispensaries. The position recently endorsed by the Justice Department suggests that dispensaries in all of these states are vulnerable to DEA raids and federal prosecution, despite promises by Holder and President Obama to respect state law. Are the feds prepared to follow through on their threats, or is it now their turn to back down?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Joe M||

    Are the feds prepared to follow through on their threats, or is it now their turn to back down?

    My guess would be they follow through, because Obama thinks he'll get a pass from team blue on this issue.

  • Hugh Akston||

    "We may hate every single thing you do, but you know we're still gonna vote for you. HUH!"

  • prolefeed||

    Are the feds prepared to follow through on their threats, or is it now their turn to back down?

    My guess is that they run it by focus groups or whatnot, figure out which approach will net the most votes, and proceed accordingly.

  • Joe R.||

    I'm about ready for a governor who gives a shit about this to send the state police to guard dispensaries from DEA thugs.

  • Jim||

    Well, laa-tee-freaking-daa. A liberal state actually puts its money where its mouth is, and forges ahead with drug reform despite federal threats.

    I'll be looking for 1/3 of the stars to fall from the sky this evening.

    Isn't Vermont also going to single-payer? They'll need it, to treat the burgeoning epidemic of...REEFER MADNESS!!1!!1

  • OO||

    the white womens luv orgies after smoking satan's weed

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    the white womens luv orgies after smoking satan's weed

    No comment.

  • prolefeed||

    I couldn't figure out if that comment was retarded or ironic, or both.

  • ||

    Well prolefeed you've obviously never read the words of the great philosopher Harry J. Anslinger. If you'll please remember these are verbatim quotes and not my words with the one small exception (), here's a sample of Harry J's genius mind:

    “There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz, and swing, result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers, and any others. (except Harry J)”

    “…the primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races.”

    “Marijuana is an addictive drug which produces in its users insanity, criminality, and death.”

    “Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”

    “Marihuana leads to pacifism and communist brainwashing”

    “You smoke a joint and you’re likely to kill your brother.”

    “Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind.”

    unquote. The really sick thing isn't that the men in white suits with butterfly nets didn't catch him and take him to the local laughing academy, it was that such thinking was not only taken seriously, it won the day when the lawmaker's voted. Well we can't have them Negroes miscegenating with white women, oh no, not at all.

  • SIV||

    Taxpayer funded medical REEFER MADNESS!111!!

  • bilbo||

    Nation's headlines, Glaucoma outbreak in Vermont, CDC puzzled and really hungry.

  • L4F||

    Tell you what, if Arizona can enforce immigration laws without Bobama stopping them, I'll agree that Vermont can create any state laws they want.

    What's good for the Yankees is good for the southerners and westeners.

  • Joe M||

    Fee fi bobama.

  • ||

    The U.S. Constitution really doesn't matter at all, right L4F?

  • ||

    This dude is Gregory Smith, a Socon troll who thinks he's a libertarian.

  • ||

    This dude is Gregory Smith, a Socon troll who thinks he's a libertarian.

  • aeronathan||

    Just have to add more states to the "legal" list along with strict prohibitions on state and local law enforcement assisting the DEA and other federal law enforcement in such matters.

    There's only so much the feds can do without state and local assistance...

  • BradK||

    There's only so much the feds can do without state and local assistance...

    Yet they always seem to get plenty of it, don't they? Here in LaLa, neither the LAPD nor the LASD ever met a DEA raid on a dispensary they couldn't get behind -- and in on. Even if the State legislature, Governor, and majority of voters approve the sale and distribution of MM, local law enforcement types always seem to find a way to antagonize if not completely stop the activity. A DEA raid party is a perfect cover.

    What would be a beautiful thing to behold is to see LLE actually NOT join in a DEA raid. Better yet, hinder it in some way. Won't ever happen in lock-em-up California, but who knows in VT.

    What Would Ben & Jerry Do?

  • ||

    ""What Would Ben & Jerry Do?""

    Name an ice cream after it.

    Federal Fudgepackers?

  • Spartacus||

    I would love to see an executive order issued by a governor, disbanding joint federal-state crime task forces and prohibiting use of state resources (including personnel time, computer databases, etc) to assist with federal investigations. A governor could do it with a signature, but it ain't gonna happen.

  • Zeb||

    Why is it that every politician (with very few possible exceptions)who does something good in some area that I care about also has to be absolutely awful in some other area I also care about?

  • ||

    Like Rand Paul? Also: Do the Hit & Run editors not find it newsworthy that Rand Paul doesn't believe in the first amendment?

  • ||

    If that's an accurate quote and isn't distorting his position somehow, I've got a problem with that. It doesn't sound like him, but consistency is not a trait often found in politicians.

  • ||

    Pretty sad, but unequivocal:

    "But if someone is attending speeches from someone who is promoting the violent overthrow of our government, that's really an offense that we should be going after -- they should be deported or put in prison."

  • prolefeed||

    I believe I've made arguments like that from time to time -- dunno if they were long enough to be considered speeches -- but under that criteria the entire leadership of the Libertarian Party of Hawaii could be jailed if 5+ SCOTUS justices could be found to go along with it.

    How does one usually sound so libertarian then pound out a stinker like that one?

  • Jim||

    I am disappoint.

    Senator seems like a pretty cool guy. Eh makes the speeches and doesn't afraid of anything.

  • ||

    It is Senator Paul's right, protected by the 1st Amendment, to advocate the repeal of the 1st Amendment in part or in full. It's when people start passing laws that violate protected rights, like gun control, without first going through the process of relieving the people of that protected right that it becomes an heinous act.

  • ChicagoSucks||

    Vermont... It's the new Texas.

  • ||

    Well we need a New Texas because the old one is wimpier than Justin Bieber.

  • Justin Bieber||

    Fudge you.

  • ||


    I was just thinking about the contrast between Vermont's gumption on medical marijuana and Texas's craven cowardice on TSA groping.

    These are some strange times we're living in, brothers.

  • ||

    Are the feds prepared to follow through on their threats, or is it now their turn to back down?

    Care to put some money on it? I'll give you 5-1 odds that within a year the feds have raided a fully-authorized dispensary.

  • ChicagoSucks||

    I wouldn't take that bet even with odds of my choosing.

  • ||

    Ok, I'll bet 10 bucks. If I win, I can get quarter.

  • ||

    ""I'll give you 5-1 odds that within a year the feds have raided a fully-authorized dispensary."'

    I agree. I think they will hit one like it's D-day to serve as a warning to others.

  • ||

    "A" quarter.

  • Eric Holder||

    "Draw and" quarter.

  • ||

    State's rights is always a codeword for "black people need to go back to being slaves." Always.

  • MNG, Tony, Max, et al||

    FINALLY, somebody gets it!

  • DK||

    Like the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, which opposed the Alien and Sedition Acts? Or New England states' threats to secede over the War of 1812? Sounds like a front for slavery to me...

  • DK||

    Oooh! Or the 17th Amendment (direct election of senators). Shifted state-federal balance toward the feds.

  • ||

    Look, I'm not saying I know howVermont defying the Federal Government on marijuana is going to bring back slavery, I just know that it will. Because state's rights is always a smoke screen for bringing back slavery.

  • ||

    I feel it in my core emoter.

  • Bohica||

    Really Splenda? Isn't it obvious what Vermont is trying to do here? Think about it: Vermont doesn't have any black people to enslave. Clearly they plan to attract them with the promise of lots of weed and white women driven to wild orgies by it. Only then will they be rounded up and auctioned off. Come on, everyone knows this.

  • ||

    Oh, fuck. You're totally right. Fiendishly clever of those slavering racist Vermonteers.

  • creech||

    And if you dig really deep, you'll find the Koch brothers involved in this nefarious scheme to enslave blacks.

  • ||

    Obviously. The Kochs have been wanting to bring back slavery since the first time they heard "Brown Sugar" on the radio.

  • prolefeed||

    Maybe they'll go after Teh Jooz, since not enough blacks to enslave in Vermont.

    Because clearly, defying an organization that is fractionally enslaving you leads to slavery.

    Or something.

  • ||

    Except in liberal states, you MORAM! And no, no sic.

    You ask why that is? It's because liberals speak for and ensure the continued state of the downtrodden. Or even of the "downtrodden."

  • ||

    Thomas Jefferson kept slaves. So there.

  • ||

    He was a liberal, you know.

  • ChicagoSucks||

    No, no he wasn't. He was a democratic-republican, a party he co-founded with Madison in opposition to the Federalists. Might want to check your history there.

  • ChicagoSucks||

    Thomas Jefferson was also one of the few attorneys to actually defend blacks in court....for free.

  • ||

    But he kept slaves, so that means anything else he ever did had no merit whatsoever and any sort of legal documents he helped write are null and void. Because a racist wrote them.

  • ChicagoSucks||

    Do you admire your mother with that logic?

  • ||

    Anyone who disagrees with me is a racist.

  • ChicagoSucks||

    I guess that makes me a witch racist.

  • ||

    At least you've finally admitted it.

  • Michelle Obama||

    Some of my best friends are witches.

  • ||

    Birds of a feather, wouldn't you say?

  • ||

    "It could be witches,
    some evil witches!
    Which is ridiculous 'cause witches they were persecuted wicca good and love the earth and women power and I'll be over here."

  • nekoxgirl||

    +1 to the Buffy reference!

  • ||

    TJ wasn't very good with his money and had mortgaged all of his slaves which was the main reason he couldn't give them title to themselves.

    Beyond that there's a pretty good argument that keeping them and treating them as if they were a full 5/5ths of a person was significantly better for them than setting them free and letting them take their chances in a foreign country with a significant cohort of racists, many of them in significant positions of political power.

  • Jim||

    Beyond that there's a pretty good argument that keeping them and treating them as if they were a full 5/5ths of a person was significantly better for them than setting them free and letting them take their chances in a foreign country with a significant cohort of racists, many of them in significant positions of political power.

    Actually that argument is utter garbage, as long as the people weren't being given the option to go and chance it, or stay and be taken care of. Otherwise, you could have justified keep slavery until the fucking 60s. The 1960s.

  • Joe M||

    It's spelled MOROM.

  • ||

    Horse hockey.

  • Bohica||

    We're all racists now.

  • pmains||

    Meanwhile, Arizona plays hokey-pokey on this issue. The GOP establishment is firmly opposed to medical marijuana even though the people of Arizona have approved it three times.

    The latest twist is that they have denied the first application for a dispensary. Is this (A) in response to threats from the feds? (B) Result of a bad application? (C) Simple ideology-driven resistance? (D) Both A and C?

    I choose D.

  • Jim||

    The TEAM BLUE in Vermont seem to be forging their own course, but by and large, both TEAM RED and TEAM BLUE are pretty ardent anti-drug warriors...even if it means overriding the will of the serfs. Er, I meant, people.

  • ||

    Dialectal materialism.

  • ||

    unfortunately, the will of the people seems to be to continue the drug war, sadly.

    fuck, we can't even get mj legalized in NEVADA of all fucking places.

    i certainly think the war on MJ is losing steam, but when it comes to "hard drugs" ... not even close. come to some local community meetings. the average person at these meetings are always screaming at cops to DO SOMETHING MORE about the drug problem. seriously

  • Jim||

    I was taking pmains word for it that the good people of Arizona had voted to legalize MM, but that the GOP lock on the state gov't. was preventing it from being practically implemented (which strikes me as something that a state gov't would do in defiance of the clearly expressed will of the people who voted to legalize).

  • ||

    medical mj is a good start, and i think it IS part of the slippery slope towards overall decrim/legalization (people who deny that are full of shit), but that's a FEATURE not a bug.

    it's also helped unify state rights rightwingers with hippie dippie mj smoking leftwingers. and that's good too.

    the GOP fights the will o the people on medical MJ to their detriment and destruction. smart GOP'ers REGARDLESS of whether they think mj is a legitimate therapeutic modality, see it as a states' right issue and support the right of a state to legalize it for medical, or other purposes

  • ||

    I'd just enjoy someone who would take the time to 'splain the process of going from medicalization to re-legalization for recreational use. Please don't forget to tell me when cocaine and meth are going to be available for recreational use. Both have been available by prescription for decades but no one will tell me when I'm going to get a chance to try some meth just for kicks and giggles.

  • ||

    mj is disanalogous to meth in many ways. that's exactly the point.

    legalized medical MJ will expose far more people, especially the type that would reflexively be anti-MJ to the fact that it's relatively benign.

    cocaine is generally only used for nasal surgery in tincture form iirc, so that's a poor analogy.

    meth has tons of problems if abused that don't apply to mj. again, that's exactly the point.

    medical MJ will help erode the myths surrounding MJ.

  • Robert||

    I'd just enjoy someone who would take the time to 'splain the process of going from medicalization to re-legalization for recreational use.

    Obviously at some point it would have to undergo a prescription to OTC transition -- which a number of drugs have done. Alexander Shulgin timelined the progress of loperamide from schedule 1 to OTC.

    Please don't forget to tell me when cocaine and meth are going to be available for recreational use. Both have been available by prescription for decades but no one will tell me when I'm going to get a chance to try some meth just for kicks and giggles.

    Presumably that will await some drug firm's development of versions of those drugs which will be officially pronounced to have no, or very low, "potential for abuse". Since "abuse" is never defined, they could make some meaningless change to the product (as by packaging it child-resistant) when the time is right and have the authorities declare it so.
  • ||

    and Rogaine and Ibuprofen and TONS of other drugs...

    It's common for drugs to go from prescription (legend drug status) to OTC...

    It's not as common to go from Controlled Substance to legend drug status, but by legalizing medical MJ, we are effectively doing that

  • ||

    i think Vermont needs to bitch-slap WA gov. Gregoire and give her some fucking moxie!

    That's fucking awesome. Was Super Troopers Vermont or New Hampshire?

    "Is that marijuana from a state dispensary Meow?"

  • ||

    Why do your kind, if they be truly committed to our founding prinicples, ever participate in any drug investigations, stings, SWAT raids and arrests?

    Seems to me, if I am a cop, I read my state's constitution, I read about our founding and I recognize that there is not a scintilla of support for the proposition that the state can prohibit the use and / or distribution of any drug. I would also recognize that the WoD is utterly incompatible with first principles and that we did not throw off the yoke of one police state so that we could have another.

    You do know that the founding generation did not have a lot of respect for those who would choose to be one of the king's men, particularly if they were adorned in a clown costume.

  • ||

    actually, and i have answered this question ad nauseum, there is substantial authority for state's to prohibit various drug usage.

    it is bad policy, but it is not unconstitutional.

    there are LOTS of issues with federal drug enforcement, Raich, commerce clause shenanigans, etc.

    as i have stated ad nauseum - enforcement of local drug laws makes up less than 2% (at most) of my work.

    enforcement of federal laws? zero

  • ||

    Sure, a state, like the feds, possess the phsyical power to enact whatever it wants.

    Does Washington state's original constitution contain a specific grant of power to the legislature authorizing it to outlaw specific drugs?

    Article IV, section 4 of the federal constitution guarantess republican form of government to every state. At the time of the founding, republican governance meant that government existed solely to protect individual liberty, not majority rules or that the legislature can do what it sees fit on any subject.

    Moreover, the ninth amendment nullifies your argument. There are no exceptions contained in the text of the amendmnent permitting states to employ uniformed thugs to arrest those who smoke mj.

    More importantly, you really did not respond to why any cop would participate, in any way, in any drug / SWAT raids / arrests.

    Sure, there are lots of folks clamoring for more government, but that does not mean you should listen to them.

    Individual cops do have a choice. They do not have to participate in the WoD. Instead, if they are true patriots, they should target the drug warriors in their departments for death.

  • ||

    again, this is false. states have a legal/constitutional authority to enact (bad laws) drug policy. very few libertarians argue this. it is true that drug law is bad policy. it is NOT true that states do not have authority under our system of govt. to ban any drug they see fit to.

    of course any person who says the people in my dept who are drug warrior should be "targeted for death" is obviously just a troll, so i'll keep my response this brief. (huge sigh of relief from peanut gallery)

  • ||

    What does this part of the California State Constitution mean, particularly section (c)?

    SEC. 3.5. An administrative agency, including an administrative
    agency created by the Constitution or an initiative statute, has no
    (a) To declare a statute unenforceable, or refuse to enforce a
    statute, on the basis of it being unconstitutional unless an
    appellate court has made a determination that such statute is
    (b) To declare a statute unconstitutional;
    (c) To declare a statute unenforceable, or to refuse to enforce a statute on the basis that federal law or federal regulations prohibit the enforcement of such statute unless an appellate court has made a determination that the enforcement of such statute is prohibited by federal law or federal regulations.

  • ||

  • Jim||

    It was Vermont.

    Please tell me you named your cruiser Car Ramrod.

  • ||

    Cops are the enemy, Jim. The founding fathers would have nothing but contempt for those who would be the king's men adorned in their clown costumes.

    Cops are tax feeders. They are parasites who prefer to accept property which has been confiscated from those who actually make and produce something.

    Cowardice, thy name is joining a state sponsored military or para military organization.

  • ||

    lol, 'king's men'.

    troll-o-meter: .002

  • ||

    cops didn't make drugs illegal. legislators do.

    the sole responsibility for the drug war lies with them, and arguably - the people who continue to vote for drug warriors.

    i would love for the drug war to end. i know more than a few cops who feel the same way, and certainly in regards to MJ, a very substantial # do

    heck, i work with guys who haven't done a single misdemeanor mj case in YEARS. iow, they could not fucking care less

  • ||

    So, you are a robot with no conscience or free will? That is the only way you are not responsible for the drug war.

  • ||

    no, i am not responsible for it. those who make the laws are responsible for it.

    are medical doctors responsible for the drug war? they have to, pursuant to their DEA license, report various violations involving drug diversions etc. that comes to their attention to police. by law.

    so do pharmacists.

    thus, they are also, to some extent - just like cops - involved in the drug war.

    should people choose not to become dr's because a small part of their job requires them to turn in people violating drug laws, and thus contribute to the war on drugs?

    the WOD is a tiny part of my job. less than 2%. i don't enforce federal laws at all.

    i have both conscience and free will. i choose to engage in what i believe to be a noble career, and i can state with abolute certainty that i have saved lives/people from injury and brought scumbags to justice, and helped crime victims

    the fact that i have to occasionally enforce a drug law is a sad fact, but a fact nonetheless

    i can live with it, and i'm damn proud of what i do.

    if and when the people RESPONSIBLE for the drug war- the legislature - is willing to make a change, i'm for it.


  • ||

    And those who enforce what you admit are bad laws, and which I assert are frequently-abused, life ruining laws, bear absolutely no responsibility for their participation in a diseased system, right?

  • ||

    mad max:"she's the last of the v-8 interceptors"

  • ||

    king's men,
    clown costumes.

    All pigs from now on....

  • ||

    If you are a Prohibitionist then you owe us answers to the following questions:

    #1. Why do you rejoice at the fact that we have all been stripped of our 4th amendment rights and are now totally subordinate to a corporatized, despotic government with a heavily armed and corrupt, militarized police force whose often deadly intrusions into our homes and lives are condoned by an equally corrupt and spineless judiciary?

    #2. Why do you wish to continue to spend $50 billion a year to prosecute and cage your fellow citizens for choosing drugs which are not more dangerous than those of which you yourself use and approve of such as alcohol and tobacco?

    #3. Do you honestly expect the rest of us to look on passively while you waste another trillion dollars on this garbage policy?

    #4. Why are your waging war on your own family, friends and neighbors?

    #5. Why are you so complacent with the fact that our once 'free & proud' nation now has the largest percentage of it's citizenry incarcerated than any other on the entire planet?

    #6. Why are you helping to fuel a budget crisis to the point of closing hospitals, schools and libraries?

    #7. Why do you rejoice at wasting precious resources on prohibition related undercover work while rapists and murderers walk free, while additionally, many cases involving murder and rape do not even get taken to trial because law enforcement priorities are subverted by your beloved failed and dangerous policy?

    #8. Why are you such a supporter of the 'prison industrial complex' to the extent of endangering our own children?

    #9. Will you graciously applaud, when due to your own incipient and authoritarian approach, even your own child is caged and raped?

    * It is estimated that there are over 300,000 instances of prison rape a year.
* 196,000 are estimated to happen to men in prison.
* 123,000 are estimated to happen to men in county jail.
* 40,000 are estimated to be committed against boys in either adult prisons or while in juvenile facilities or lock ups.
* 5000 women are estimated to be raped in prison.

    #10. And will you also applaud when your own child, due to an unnecessary and counter productive felony conviction, can no longer find employment?

    Private prisons are publicly traded and their stock value is tied to the number of inmates. Here's what the UK Economist Magazine thinks of the situation: "Never in the civilised world have so many been locked up for so little"

    According to Paul Craig Roberts, a former editor of the Wall Street Journal and former assistant secretary to the treasury under Ronald Reagan, "Police in the US now rival criminals, and exceed terrorists as the greatest threat to the American public."

    "Narcotics police are an enormous, corrupt international bureaucracy and now fund a coterie of researchers who provide them with ‘scientific support’, fanatics who distort the legitimate research of others. The anti-marijuana campaign is a cancerous tissue of lies, undermining law enforcement, aggravating the drug problem, depriving the sick of needed help, and suckering well-intentioned conservatives and countless frightened parents."  – William F. Buckley, Commentary in The National Review, April 29, 1983, p. 495

    There is no conflict between liberty and safety. We will have both or neither.
William Ramsey Clark (1927--)

  • ||

    Jesus said to do unto others as we would have them to do unto us. None of us would want our child thrown in jail with the sexual predators over marijuana. None of us would want to see an older family member’s home confiscated and sold by the police for growing a couple of marijuana plants for their aches and pains. How about $100 for a permit to grow a dozen plants? Also, check out w w w . if you’d like to see some very positive material about Jesus at work in people’s lives


Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.