Marijuana

Republicans Demand That the Feds Impose Pot Prohibition on States That Have Opted Out

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House Judiciary Committee

Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee yesterday, Attorney General Eric Holder was grilled once again about his response to marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington. He correctly responded that the Justice Department has "a vast amount of discretion" in deciding how to enforce the Controlled Substances Act and argued that his decision to focus on eight "federal enforcement priorities" in states that have legalized marijuana for medical or general use is "consistent with the aims of the statute." Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.) was not buying it. "Federal law takes precedence" over state law, Smith said. "The state of Colorado is undermining…federal law, correct? Why do you fail to enforce the laws of the land?"

This is the position that many Republicans, despite their supposed belief in federalism, have staked out with respect to the crumbling of pot prohibition. They not only accept the fanciful notion, which is no less absurd for having been endorsed by the Supreme Court, that interstate commerce includes marijuana that never crosses state lines, down to a plant in a cancer patient's yard or a bag of buds in her dresser drawer. They also argue, as Smith does, that "state law conflicts with federal law" if it does not punish everything that Congress decides to treat as a crime. Hence the feds must step into the gap, raiding and busting state-licensed marijuana growers and sellers. According to Smith (and Ted Cruz, among others), Holder is obligated to crush the experiments in Colorado and Washington.

Holder shares Smith's assumptions about federal power, but he argues that just because he has the legal authority to do something does not mean it's a good idea. He correctly notes that the Justice Department has never prosecuted every violation of the Controlled Substances Act. Not even close. Judging from survey data, more than 31 million Americans violated the federal ban on marijuana in 2012; 750,000 of them were arrested. That's less than 3 percent. The feds are responsible for about 1 percent of marijuana arrests, meaning they nab something like 0.02 percent of violators. Given its limited resources, the Justice Department, under both Republican and Democratic administrations, generally has eschewed small marijuana cases. Since the feds are responsible for 1 percent of marijuana arrests, what do gung-ho drug warriors like Smith think the Justice Department should do in states that decide they no longer want to be responsible for the other 99 percent? The department simply does not have the resources to pick up that kind of slack.

It's true that U.S. attorneys could send threatening letters to marijuana businesses and their landlords, which probably would be pretty effective at shutting them down. But then what? In Colorado, adults are allowed to grow up to six plants at home and share the produce, one ounce at a time, with friends, relatives, and acquaintances. Washington has hundreds of quasi-legal businesses that sell marijuana, ostensibly for medical use, which was authorized by a 1998 ballot initiative. The Justice Department can close state-licensed stores without too much effort, but the alternative sources will be much harder to control. That thought probably has occurred to Holder, who waited 10 months before settling on a less confrontational approach.

The memo that Deputy Attorney General James Cole issued on August 29 makes no promises, but it suggests that prosecuting state-legal cannabusinesses is not a good use of federal resources unless they are contributing to one of the eight problems listed in the memo, which include distribution to minors, sales of other drugs, interstate smuggling, violence, and organized crime. Holder is right that such prioritization is within his authority under the Controlled Substances Act, and Smith is wrong to suggest otherwise. Furthermore, this misguided argument in favor of imposing pot prohibition on recalcitrant states puts Republicans on the wrong side of history and the wrong side of their own avowed principles.

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  1. While I tend to get annoyed whenever the “Stupid Party” moniker gets carted out, they’ve decided to live up to it yet again.

    sigh.

    1. Really? It seems to be a race to the bottom of stupid to me.

    2. Yup, they’re gearing up to lose the election.

  2. Republicans once again shooting themselves in the foot. Over a fucking plant. Yes, STUPID PARTY. Not only that, but STUPID DUMBER THAN SHIT PARTY!

  3. Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.) was not buying it. “Federal law takes precedence” over state law, Smith said. “The state of Colorado is undermining…federal law, correct? Why do you fail to enforce the laws of the land?”

    Because, “Fuck you, that’s why.” Also, because the DEA/DOJ/FBI can’t afford it.

    this misguided argument in favor of imposing pot prohibition on recalcitrant states puts Republicans on the wrong side of history and on the wrong side of their own avowed principles.

    You owe me a new keyboard, Sullum, for telling a joke about Republicans and principles while I’m still drinking my morning coffee.

    1. Model Ms are drink-resistant, just unplug grain and try.

      And they’re still being made: http://www.pckeyboard.com/

      1. *unplug, drain and dry

        oops.

    2. Conveniently, Smith was absent during the recent vote by the Missouri House to nullify federal firearms laws.

      http://www.house.mo.gov/billtr…..46.005.pdf

      So he is for federal law when it suits him, but doesn’t seem to care enough to even vote when there is a bill that deals directly with federal enforcement of other laws in his state.

      1. Isn’t Smith a federal rep?

        1. Whoops! I got the wrong Smith. You are correct.

    3. Actually, because they’re not REQUIRED to enforce federal laws.

  4. It seems that some mainstream Republicans have finally found a Deeply Held Principle to defend unto death – enforce an unconstitutional, oppressive and increasingly-unpopular federal law.

    They can’t be so stupid as to think there’s an electoral advantage from this, can they? So apparently they’re doing this on principle.

    Go on, Captain Ahab, track down that whale and kill it!

    1. But, but…. they’re “electable,” unlike that nut who wants to ease off just a little on foreign adventures.

    2. They can’t be so stupid as to think there’s an electoral advantage from this, can they?

      They may actually be smart to think so. You’d have to poll GOP primary voters in their states to find out. I bet there’s been some private polling they’re going on.

  5. As a small government Conservative, I believe the federal government should not be imposing its will on individual states where the states have conflicting views. Except in the case of drugs. And marriage.

    1. well played.

    2. What about abortion, huh? You bigoted teabagging hater.

      1. Baby-murdering is a local story, donchaknow?

  6. Chesterton was right.

    1. “No matter how you slice it, it’s still baloney.” – G. K. Chesterton

  7. You know, I can’t stand Holder but I have to give him some credit for understanding that the real source of his power is the people’s tolerance of exercise of it – that if he went in all GySgt Hartman on Colorado he’d have likely gotten so much push-back on CSA enforcement that it’d make federal enforcement nearly impossible all over the country *and* bleed over into other areas the feds regulate alongside the states.

    1. Many Republican legislators want Holder to go after the states for the very reasons you cite–to drain Federal resources, make the Obama justice department look bad, etc.

  8. “Federal law takes precedence” over state law, Smith said. “The state of Colorado is undermining…federal law, correct? Why do you fail to enforce the laws of the land?”

    And the Constitution takes precedence over federal law. The federal law is undermining the Constitution’s enumerated powers. Why do you fail to enforce the Constitution, Congressman?

  9. The memo that Deputy Attorney General James Cole issued on August 29 makes no promises, but it suggests that prosecuting state-legal cannabusinesses is not a good use of federal resources unless they are contributing to one of the eight problems listed in the memo, which include distribution to minors, sales of other drugs, interstate smuggling, violence, and organized crime.

    IOW, the feds have a binder full of pretexts to go after state-legal businesses whenever they feel like it.

  10. Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.) was not buying it. “Federal law takes precedence” over state law, Smith said. “The state of Colorado is undermining…federal law, correct? Why do you fail to enforce the laws of the land?”

    Jason Smith seems not to have read the secession documents of the CSA? that was exactly their argument for seceding ? the northern states were refusing the enforce the Fugitive Slave Act.

    1. That was one of the major reasons, but another was that the south wanted to eliminate the provisions in the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which prohibited slavery in the portion of the new territory above the latitude 36-30′, except in Missouri, but the north wouldn’t allow it.

  11. Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.)

    congats. you’ve been permantently added to the enemies list.

  12. Like I’ve always said, republicans are just democrats with bibles.

    1. Maybe they should read them instead of carrying them around as props.

  13. “It’s true that U.S. attorneys could send threatening letters to marijuana businesses and their landlords, which probably would be pretty effective at shutting them down.”

    It is effective. It shut down a CA medical marijuana dispensary I know of by threatening the landlord – effectively putting them out of business for months (perhaps permanently). Hard to rent a new place when you have to explain that you have to move because your previous landlord was threatened with Federal legal action. Not to mention lengthy local paperwork process to be allowed to open in a new location.

  14. No. What they are asking is for Laws that have been passed by Congress to be enforced. If you bothered to read Holder’s testimony, you’d see this has little to do with “pot” and everything to do with his (and 0bama’s) selective enforcement of Laws specifically passed by Congress that Holder is supposed to enforce.

    Holder is taking the view (along with “Reason”) that he has unlimited discretion with regard to the enforcement of Congressionally passed Laws.

    I realize “Reason” does not believe in the Rule of Law and would prefer we revert to a barbaric state in which the weak rule the strong and those with power make up the laws as they go along.

    However, the rest of us rational people would prefer to live in a society where Laws are passed by a Constitutionally constituted government and enforced. If the people decided the Law needed to be changed, it would be done in a manner consistent with the Constitution and then the modified Law would be enforced.

    Holder (and apparently “Reason”) see no need to go through that “onerous process” and want to just selectively enforce the laws they like in a manner that they feel is appropriate.

    That’s what they do in North Korea.

    Perhaps “Reason” and Holder (along with 0bama) should just move to their ideal State, North Korea, where they could impose their frivolous tyranny on the populace and have a good old time.

    1. If we lived under “the Rule of Law” we wouldn’t be having this conversation, as the Federal Government would be limited to its actual reserved powers, not unlimited by flimsy pretexts.

      No one is pushing “unlimited” discretion. In this MILD case of incomplete exercise of the drug war, it can be easily argued (abandoning principles of liberty, of course) that the substance is the least harmful and deserves the least effort, as do acts which do not involve trafficking.

      You “rational” people, on the other hand, believe that pot is so dangerous that people who buy and sell it need to be prosecuted and jailed at extreme expense–for their own good.

      You can bet your bottom dollar that “onerous process” of repealing the laws will be accomplished, and probably with you being dragged, kicking and screaming.

      1. I don’t care about “pot”. I care about the continued existence of a peaceful, Constitutionally limited Republic where all men are equal under the Law and the Laws are uniformly enforced.

        Apparently that concept is alien to “Reason” and most of its subscribers.

        1. The federal government routinely ignores its “peaceful” Constitutional limits. Apparently that concept is alien to shitheads like Jim Kress, unless some masked “uniform” shows up at his front door with a battering ram and and starts spraying his house with automatic weapon fire.

    2. Let me guess – you were dropped on your head as an infant, repeatedly and with force.

      “[A] barbaric state in which the weak rule the strong and those with power make up the laws as they go along,” is exactly what we have now, and exactly what you’re calling for more of.

      Since there is no Constitutional authority for the Feds to prosecute this abhorrent War on (Non-Corporate) Drugs, from whence comes consistency with the Constitution?

      You’re drooling again.

  15. Well, seems we have some leftover temperance-types in our midst. Despite their concerns, they cannot be considered republicans, because you cannot legislate behavior. They might want to acquaint themselves with Romans.

  16. The idea that states which choose not to enforce federal law are “in conflict” with federal law assumes that the states MUST enforce federal law, which was never true. It is, in fact, anachronistic to federalism itself. If it were the case, there would be no federalism at all.

    The Colorado MMJ amendment leveraged this fact to FORBID local law enforcement to work with the feds on medical cannabis. The practical reality is that the DEA cannot control individual local pot behaviors WITH the help of the state and locals. Forbidding their participation (on medical, anyway) virtually guaranteed that only visible commercial enterprises and people stupid enough to invite trouble (such as inviting the television news into their gardens) are interfered with, so if you don’t poke that bear, he probably won’t maul you.

    In fact, the commercialization and regulation is most likely what will draw them in. Some guy growing a dozen plants in his home will almost never be bothered, unless it’s by locals. To that extent, I would have preferred A64 more closely resembled A20, and commercial sale had been discouraged (and along with it, the regulations) for now.

  17. Furthermore, this misguided argument in favor of imposing pot prohibition on recalcitrant states puts Republicans on the wrong side of history and on the wrong side of their own avowed principles.

    So, no change in position for the Republicans, then. We’ll see how that works out for them in 2016.

  18. What constitutional authority does the federal government have to prohibit an intoxicant? Apparently none whatsoever.

    In 1914, there was a movement to prohibit the drinking of alcohol on a national level. The federal government had exactly as much supremacy over the states then as they do a century later in 2014.

    None.

    In order to prevent national prohibition from being struck down as unconstitutional, the 18th amendment was passed, ratified and enacted. But the 18th amendment was wholly repealed about 10 years later by the 21st amendment.

    The 21st reserves authority on whether to ban intoxicants solely to the states, but allows for federal laws to exist to prevent the smuggling of such substances into any state where they are illegal.

    It’s worth noting that the 18th and 21st were specific to alcohol, but in the absence of an amendment granting the feds the authority to ban cannabis, cocaine, etc…they have no such authority. They stretched the 21st to cover those things, but their prohibitory authority goes away in any state which legalizes those things.

    There is no conflict between state marijuana legalization and federal marijuana prohibition because the federal law is in direct conflict with the federal constitution, and is therefore null and void.

    1. Doh, that “None.” is a typo, please ignore it.

  19. Proof again that Republicans love big government at least as much as the Democrats.

    1. Yep, absolutely… but I think both sides like CONTROL… they just differ on WHAT they want to control!

      Hm?

  20. Still waiting for marijuana users to be intellectually honest about the dangers of the drug,

    150+ Scientific Studies Showing the Dangers of Marijuana

    1. The wait has been over for decades – please try to keep up.

    2. And if you eliminate the studies that include words like ‘could, might, may,’ etc.. there wouldn’t be anywhere close to 150+ on that list, either!

      Did you READ any of those alleged ‘conclusions’?

      1. I read them all, time to stop lying to impressionable children that Marijuana is harmless.

        1. Start reading some real studies instead of fraudulent US government propaganda. And put down that bottle.

          1. Stop with the delusional conspiracy theories as they are real studies.

    3. Instead of intellectually, how about scientifically?
      FACT Marijuana is less addictive and less harmful than Caffeine, let alone Alcohol and Tobacco; (3 Scientific Studies)
      BTW, Dr Henningfield is a former NIDA Staffer;.
      Addictiveness of Marijuana – ProCon.Org.
      http://www.procon.Org/view.bac…..rceID=1492

      1. Marijuana is addictive (9 scientific studies on the list)

        Addiction:
        Animals Exposed To Marijuana’s Active Component Will Self-Administer The Drug (National Institute on Drug Abuse)
        Cannabis withdrawal symptoms might have clinical importance (Public Library of Science)
        Increase in prevalence of marijuana abuse and dependence (Journal of the American Medical Association)
        Marijuana Withdrawal As Bad As Withdrawal From Cigarettes (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine)
        Marijuana Withdrawal Reported By Teens Seeking Treatment (University of Vermont)
        Mothers’ Teen Cannabinoid Exposure May Increase Response of Offspring to Opiate Drugs (Tufts University)
        Parental exposure to THC Linked to drug addiction, compulsive behavior in unexposed offspring (Mount Sinai Medical Center)
        Regular cocaine and cannabis use may trigger addictive behaviours (British Journal of Pharmacology)
        Smoking, Drinking, Drugs: The Younger They Start, The Harder It Is To Quit (Center for Advancing Health)

  21. 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

    We’d all be better off if the police focused on crimes that have actual victims.

    Does anyone honestly believe that wasting $20 Billion and arresting 3/4 Million Americans annually for choosing a substance Scientifically proven to be safer than what the govt allows, is a sound policy?

  22. Why aren’t they screaming for fed enforcement of environmental and banking laws?

    1. Because they’re too busy proving that Jesus rode a dinosaur, even though everyone knows that Noah forgot to put them (and the unicorns) on the ark.

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