Today Ed Rosenthal, the marijuana cultivation expert familiar to fans of the "Ask Ed" column in High Times, goes on trial in federal court. The charge, marijuana cultivation, is not surprising, but the context is. Rosenthal was nabbed only because he tried to go legit, growing marijuana for distribution to California patients permitted to use it by state law. Not only did he have the backing of Proposition 215, the state's medical marijuana initiative, but the city of Oakland explicitly authorized him to handle pot, declaring him "an officer of the city" to protect him from federal prosecution.
Needless to say, that didn't work. In conflicts between local or state law and federal law, conventional wisdom holds that the national government must prevail. In this case, however, the feds are trying to exercise powers the Constitution does not grant them: to declare what is and what is not legitimate medicine, for instance, and to ban the intrastate production and possession of a particular crop. Although the DEA insists Rosenthal does not have a legal leg to stand on, it's really the drug warriors who are acting lawlessly.