Marijuana

Marijuana Federalism Beats Prohibitionist Meddling

Presidential candidates prefer Carly Fiorina's stance on legalization to Chris Christie's.

|

Last week New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie reiterated his intention to crack down on marijuana in states that have legalized it if he is elected president. In an interview on Face the Nation, Christie answered "yes" when asked whether he would "return the federal prosecutions in these states," "yes" when asked if he would "go after" marijuana, and "correct" when asked if legalization would be "turned off."

If he were president, Christie could make a lot of trouble for state-licensed growers and retailers, but he would not actually have the power to make Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon recriminalize marijuana. Furthermore, any attempt to override the decisions made by voters in those states would arouse strong objections—and not just from supporters of legalization. Illustrating that point, another Republican presidential contender, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, disagreed with Christie. "Colorado voters made a choice," she said in a Fox News interview last Tuesday. "I don't support their choice, but I do support their right to make that choice." 

As I noted in March, that stance is pretty common among Republicans seeking their party's presidential nomination, and it seems politically smart, since even voters who hate marijuana do not necessarily think the federal government should force prohibition on states that do not want it. A recent Pew Research Center survey found that three-fifths of Americans think the feds should not "enforce federal marijuana laws" in states that have legalized pot. Even more striking: A 2012 CBS News survey found that 65 percent of Republicans thought "laws regarding whether the use of marijuana is legal or not should be…left to each individual state government to decide," even though only 27 percent supported Colorado-style legalization.

Christie is not alone in saying states should be compelled to toe the prohibitionist line. At least two Republican presidential candidates seem to share that view:

Marco Rubio. "If you're the president," talk radio host Hugh Hewitt asked the Florida senator in an April 14 interview, "will you enforce the federal drug laws and shut down the marijuana trade?" Rubio's response: "Yes. Yes, I think, well, I think we need to enforce our federal laws. Now do states have a right to do what they want? They don't agree with it, but they have their rights. But they don't have a right to write federal policy as well." Although Rubio's position is more equivocal than Christie's statement that he would "crack down and not permit" legalization, it does not sound like he is willing to tolerate state-approved cannabusinesses.

Lindsey Graham. In a 2010 letter to a constituent, the South Carolina senator said he does not think complying with state law should protect medical marijuana suppliers from federal prosecution. "I do not support this policy," Graham said, "as I feel it is tantamount to federal legalization of medical marijuana and creates an inconsistent federal enforcement policy between states." Presumably he would take the same position with respect to recreational marijuana. "If marijuana is half as bad as alcohol," Graham said in 2010, "that's probably good enough reason to keep it illegal."

These Republican presidential candidates, by contrast, agree with Fiorina:

Rand Paul. For at least a decade and a half, Paul has been saying that drug policy should be denationalized to the greatest extent possible. "States should be allowed to make a lot of these decisions," the Kentucky senator told CNN's Jonathan Karl in 2012. "I want things to be decided more at a local basis, with more compassion. I think it would make us as Republicans different."

Rick Perry. In his 2010 book Fed Up!: Our Fight to Save America From Washington, Perry criticizes Gonzales v. Raich, the 2005 decision in which the Supreme Court said the power to regulate interstate commerce includes the authority to enforce marijuana prohibition against patients and providers in states that have legalized the plant for medical use. "Californians clearly want some level of legalized marijuana, be it for medicinal use or otherwise," Perry writes. "The federal government is telling them they cannot. But states are not bound to enforce federal law and the federal government cannot commandeer state resources and require them to enforce it." The former Texas governor reiterated that point during a panel discussion at last year's World Economic Forum. "I am a staunch promoter of the 10th Amendment," Perry said, explaining that marijuana regulation is one of the powers that the Constitution reserves to the states.

Ted Cruz. "I actually think this is a great embodiment of what Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis called 'the laboratories of democracy,'" the Texas senator said at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in February, referring to marijuana legalization in Colorado. "If the citizens of Colorado decide they want to go down that road, that's their prerogative. I personally don't agree with it, but that's their right."

Jeb Bush. "I thought [legalization] was a bad idea," the former Florida governor said at CPAC, "but states ought to have the right to do it."

George Pataki. "I'm a great believer in the 10th Amendment," the former New York governor told Hugh Hewitt in April. "So I would be very strongly inclined to change the federal law to give states, when they've had a referenda [sic], the opportunity with respect to marijuana to decriminalize it." But Pataki's respect for the 10th Amendment is conditional. Permission to legalize could be revoked, he said, if there is "spillover to adjacent states" or an "increase in dependency." If legalization results in "much higher dependency costs that the federal government has to pay for," he said, "then I think the federal government has the right to say you can't do that."

Among the other Republican contenders, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson all have spoken disapprovingly of legalization but have not, as far as I know, taken a position on how the federal government should treat states that reject prohibition. Of the three, Walker seems the most inclined to let states go their own way. After conferring with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper last year, Walker said it was too early to judge the consequences of legalization but added that "it may be something that resonates in the future."

By my count, that's two Republican candidates who agree with Chris Christie that the federal government should not tolerate marijuana legalization and five who agree with Carly Fiorina that it should, plus three whose positions on that question remain unclear. Marijuana federalism is also popular among the candidates seeking the Democratic presidential nomination:

Hillary Clinton. "On recreational [marijuana]," the former secretary of state and presumptive nominee said during a CNN town hall in June 2014, "states are the laboratories of democracy. We have at least two states that are experimenting with that right now. I want to wait and see what the evidence is."

Bernie Sanders. The ex-hippie, a self-identified socialist who admits trying pot a couple of times but says he did not like it, sounds a lot like the decidedly more centrist Clinton, who says she has never smoked pot and a few years ago argued that drugs can't be legalized because "there is too much money" to be made by selling them. "Colorado has led the effort toward legalizing marijuana," Sanders said on Reddit last month, "and I'm going to watch very closely to see the pluses and minuses of what they have done."

Martin O'Malley. As Marijuana Majority's Tom Angell points out, the former Maryland governor came around on medical marijuana and decriminalization of possession but remains leery of full legalization, although he does not favor trying to stop states from going that route. "For Colorado," he said on CNN last year, "perhaps that's a good choice, and perhaps there's things we can learn from their experiment as a laboratory in democracy." On Reddit last November, O'Malley said, "I believe it's best for Maryland to learn from experiments underway in Colorado and Washington and to be guided according to whether more good than harm is done."

Lincoln Chafee. In 2012 the Rhode Island governor—who was a Republican when he served in the U.S. Senate from 1999 to 2007, became an independent in 2007, and officially converted to the Democratic Party in 2013—signed a bill that made possessing less than an ounce of marijuana, previously a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail, a civil offense punishable by a $150 fine. Chafee sounds cautiously open to going further. "Let's take it step by step on full legalization of marijuana," he said on HuffPost Live last year."We want to see how it's working in Colorado." He noted that "the revenue is enticing for all governors" and mused about using money from marijuana taxes to repair roads—or "pot for potholes," as he put it.

In short, Chris Christie's determination to stamp out marijuana legalization puts him in the minority among presidential candidates, among Republicans, and among the general public. "I don't believe that people want to be told just what they want to hear," he said on Face the Nation. "I believe they want to be told the truth as the person who is running sees it." There's a startling proposition: In 2015, it seems, promising to keep marijuana illegal counts as courage.

This article originally appeared at Forbes.com.

NEXT: Magna Carta: A Libertarian Document?

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 Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Chris Christie is a fat joke. He has no chance to become president. He is much too corrupt and judging from his comments he is an enemy of freedom and democracy.

    1. and doesnt his corpulence set a bad example for the children?

    2. Corrupt? I don’t agree with many of his policies, but I don’t know of any serius charges of corruption. In fact the only charges I knkw of were made by the spectacularly corrupt Democrat machine in New Jersey, pretty much blew up on examimation, amd would have bee a case of “so it’s ok when YOU do it” if true.

      He’s as good a governor of New Jersey as that state is likely to get until some major changes take place. Please, God, let him stay there. As President, he would be a cluster fuck.

  2. 3 in one day? Jesus, Sullum, pace yourself.

    1. Leave him alone! He’s trying to break a record.

      GO MAN, GO!

    2. He switched from scotch to meth

      1. I support this…also I’m totally not his meth dealer…totally.
        *nervously scratches neck*

  3. BREAKING NEWS: New Jersey Democrat Chris Christie favors big government policy on issue. Film at eleven.

    1. Chris Christie is a Republican.

      1. …. Really AmSoc? Even your sarc meeter can’t be that out of whack.

  4. Insert Christie munchies joke here.

    1. I smoked pot once as a teenager and had the munchies ever since. You can see the results. I’m a fatass with brain damage..

  5. Insert Christie munchies joke here.

    1. Insert squirrel joke here.

      1. Christie is so hungry he could eat a squirrel.

        BOOYA! 2 for 1

        1. He’s hungry enough to eat squirrel chips..

        2. Cheeseburger! Cheeseburger! Cheeseburger! And two large fries and a chocolate malt.

          1. And two strombolis.

            1. And a squirrel.

          2. No fries! CHIPS!

            No Coke! PEPSI!

  6. you make $27h…good for you! I make up to $85h working from home. My story is that I quit working at shoprite to work online and with a little effort I easily bring in around $45h to $85h?heres a good example of what I’m doing

    This is wha- I do.????? w??w??w.T?i?m?e?s-R??e?p?o?r??t.c?o??m

  7. Christie just wants marijuana illegal to thin out his competition at the donut shop.

  8. Christie isn’t brave. He’s stupid and fat.

  9. You know when someone makes a bad first impression, but then grows on you over time?

    What’s the term for the opposite of that? Like, when you have a somewhat positive impression of Chris Christie at first when he’s taking on public sector unions in his state, but over time he leaves a sour taste in your mouth, making you want to throw whatever you’re holding at the computer screen in anger and disgust at his terrible, terrible beliefs?

    1. You read my mind.

    2. I call those, usually, “Republicans.”

  10. A former prosecutor for President? No chance that I’d vote for an asshole like that. Besides, he’s obese.

  11. Brings new meaning to the term ‘pot holes’, doesn’t it? When they say they are watching what’s going on in the legal pot stares what they mean is they are waiting to see the revenues once business has ramped up. Their moral high ground will likely be shadowed by the mountain of cash they will get to play with.

    1. States, dammit. Edit button, anyone?

  12. I actually like him more because he’s fat. At some point all politicians look the same – average height, average-ish weight, similar haircuts, similar suit cuts and colors, blue or red tie, flag lapel pin because you don’t support A-mer-ka if you don’t wear a cute little brooch, dull, lifeless facial expressions, everything carefully constructed and worded, utterly devoid of personality.

    Chris Christie is a horrible person, but seeing a big ol’ fat on the TV screen at least breaks up the monotony.

    1. Put him in a t-shirt and trucker cap and he looks exactly like a striking U.A.W. worker.

      1. or Michael Moore

  13. “If marijuana is half as bad as alcohol,” Graham said in 2010, “that’s probably good enough reason to keep it illegal.”

    If a substance “half as bad” should be banned, then alcohol, being twice as bad as MJ should be prohibited as well.

    I pointed that out once to an anti- pot legalization dickhead:

    Dickhead: But we tried banning alcohol and it lead to a lot of problems with organized crime.

    Me: And what do you think the drug war is?

    Dickhead: Uhm… uhm… *head explodes*

    I actually got through to him, and this particular dickhead now supports legalization. Somehow I doubt Lindsey Graham or Chris Chrisie would be persuaded. They’re assholes who like the idea of throwing people in cages.

    1. Until it happens to them.

      It’s part of human nature; people don’t give a rat’s ass until their ox is gored.

      I’ve dealt with such situations so many times on the local level that I can’t even count them. City passes or revises ordinance that is basically a “guilty until proven innocent” fine assessment. People aren’t motivated to care, so it goes on the books with little fanfare.

      “You can’t park a boat or RV in your own driveway” – I kid you not.

      “You will be fined $100/day for every day except your scheduled trash pick up day that your trash cans can be seen from the street”. – I still kid you not.

      Then, someone that you warned about it gets snared by it and comes screaming about how bad city hall is and how we all need to ban together and fight this. “They can’t do that! It’s unconstitutional” they now say.

      Too bad. So sad. Too late. Because now, it takes a lot more effort and money. As in l-a-w-y-e-r-s to get the bureaucrats at city hall to back down. And, even then you are probably not going to prevail. It will never go anywhere and your newly formed group will go broke just paying for the lawyers to write letters to the city’s attorney and the local council members.

      I’m engaged in a battle like that right now.

  14. Prohibition of marijuana is built upon a tissue of lies: Concern For Public Safety. Our new laws save hundreds of lives every year, on the highways alone.

    All states have seen their death rates drop, but on those with medical marijuana laws posted declines 12% larger than the non-medical states. In 2012 a study released by 4AutoinsuranceQuote revealed that marijuana users are safer drivers than non-marijuana users, as “the only significant effect that marijuana has on operating on a motor vehicle is slower driving”.

    Research at the University of Saskatchewan indicates that, unlike alcohol, cocaine, heroin, or Nancy (“Just say, ‘No!'”) Reagan’s beloved nicotine, marijuana actually encourages brain-cell growth. Studies in Spain and other countries have discovered that it has tumor-shrinking, anti-carcinogenic properties. These were confirmed by the 30-year Tashkin population study at UCLA.

    Marijuana is a medicinal herb, the most benign and versatile in history. “Cannabis” in Latin, and “kaneh bosm” in the old Hebrew scrolls, quite literally the Biblical Tree of Life, used by early Christians to treat everything from skin diseases to deep pain and despair.

    What gets to me are the politicians who pose on church steps or kneeling in prayer on their campaign trails, but can’t face the scientific or the historical truths about cannabis.

    1. Please provide links.

  15. Fewer than 100 years ago both politicians and citizens recognized that federal prohibition was beyond the power of the federal government and we passed a constitutional amendment specifically so they could do so, then we repealed it on discovering that giving the federal government that much power created worse problems at greater cost than the original problem. Today the federal government can commit prohibition with the mere passing of a law or regulation. 100 years ago we recognized that the second amendment was a constitutionly guaranteed right, today both R’s and D’s agree that rights are really just privileges that government can abridge at will. We’ve traded our bill of rights for a bill of pivileges without the bother of doing so constitutionally, just like we’ve allowed our limited federal government to become an omnipotent giant with fewer restrictions by the year. We’ve traded the freedoms that made this nation great for a bag of illusions, soon all we’ll have will be illusions. Today a right is forcing a baker to make you a cake he doesn’t want to make or sell you, while our constitutionally enumerated rights are mere privileges and the government gets to decide who gets them and who doesn’t.

    1. Each passing day has me thinking that illusion is all there ever was. All that’s real is the stick and all that matters is who wields it.

    2. But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain – that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.

      Lysander Spooner

  16. “Bernie sanders.”

    His home state has legalized medical marijuana and made possession a crime akin to a parking ticket– all of which he supported. He basically decriminalized possession of marijuana while he was mayor of Burlington. That’s “centrist?”

  17. Let me go on record and say that Christie’s, Graham’s, and Rubio’s position on marijuana is the same position that Los Zetas, La Familia, Knights Templar, the Sinaloa cartel, the Juarez cartel, Beltran Leyva, and the Tijuana cartel have on the marijuana issue. They all want to keep prohibition alive. Let me state that again: their collective position on this issue is in lockstep with one another. Now I’m not insinuating that these murderous beasts are donating to their campaigns, or working the phone banks for them – – no sir. They actually get Rubio/Christie/Graham’s support for free.

    HOWEVER – – if I were a drug cartel, I would be trying my hardest to funnel as much chee$$$e to these politicians as possible. I would send legions of workers to knock on doors for them, and robo-call every Republican in the country telling them to vote for these worthless hacks.

    1. At the last election in California where medicinal use of mj was on the ballot, the strongest opposition came from the then illegal, large scale growers in the northern coastal counties. The very suppliers of the mj that was available.

      It wasn’t hard to understand why. Prohibition exacerbates profit marjins whereas, a free market slashes them to the lowest possible level.

      God forbid we ever let people grow their own. 🙁

  18. A Suggestion:

    Guys, it doesn’t look like the Rand Paul Revo[love]ution freedom train is leaving the station. With this unhappy news, I suggest we just punt, get out a 20-sided die from our D&D games sitting in our garage, and decide which one of these Republican clones, whose party hasn’t advocated a new idea since 1981 [besides, you know, two ruinous wars], we are going to get behind.

    We could just assign numbers to each candidate and roll away. A four! Fantastic. Meet our new libertarian standard-bearer: Misterrrrr Ben Carson.

    1. You shits haven’t had a new idea since Marx.
      Shutup

    2. That’s awfully presumptuous of you to say that my 20 sided die is in the garage. Go back to Sweden where keeping your dragon dice in the garage is regulated by the Riksdag.

    3. When you post, please chose either A) interesting, B) funny, or C) well supported.

      Your choice today, Option D) bitter, un-entertaining sarcasm that makes the speaker feel supperior, is no longer valid.

      1. choose. Eff.

      2. Yeah. I’ll try to do that if you guys stop a.) parroting everything I’ve be heard from rush Limbaugh for the last 20 years or b.) pretending that warmed-over pop-Austrian economic philosophy is something shiny and brand new.

        Btw, I have in the past cited peer- reviewed studies on minimum wage, immigration reform, and economic growth here in the comments only to be told that peer-review sucks and that I should take the word of Anthony watts over the work of someone who actually went to grad school for 10 years so I’ve kind of given up on option c. Bitter might be the only thing I have left.

        1. I wouldn’t brag about ten years of grad school. Even medical school is completed in less than half that.

          Ten years either indicates you are completely incompetent or, a perennial student who won’t get out and deal with the real world. Neither is particularly an admirable trait nor supportive of your self assumed expertise.

          Then again, maybe i”m all wrong. You’re really a 30 yo living in your parents basement and trolling here. Or maybe you are really a perennial student typing madly on your keyboard at the library where all knowledge is house. A modern day Karl Marx!

        2. Btw, I have in the past cited peer- reviewed studies on minimum wage, immigration reform, and economic growth

          Got any links? Because I’m pretty sure that’s bullshit. Not the least of which reasons being that there are literally no peer reviewed economic studies conducted outside of 1960’s Russia that support your backward, 19th century economic philosophy (to the extent that your profoundly ignorant veneer for schoolyard envy could be dignified with such a distinction).

        3. Btw, I have in the past cited peer- reviewed studies on minimum wage, immigration reform, and economic growth

          Got any links? Because I’m pretty sure that’s bullshit. Not the least of which reasons being that there are literally no peer reviewed economic studies conducted outside of 1960’s Russia that support your backward, 19th century economic philosophy (to the extent that your profoundly ignorant veneer for schoolyard envy could be dignified with such a distinction).

        4. If “Bitter” is all you have left, that explains why you are a socialist, I think. “Fuck it, I’ll get mine!” is the eternal motto of socialists.

          However, I completely understand that you have had difficulty engaging in intelligent conversation here — the name calling is a bit much.

          Finally, don’t assume we are all Rushites. I, for one, have never, even once, heard more than 5 minutes of Rush. I avoid him and many other socons as much as possible. I know I am not the only libertarians who has no time for him.

        5. Why not ask how many here expect the truth from folks who advocate taking things that belong to others?

    4. I?m voting libertarian. My vote changes laws without endorsing prohibition, genocide or the enslavement of women. (Assuming it is tallied the way I cast it…)

  19. I thank Chris Christie for coming out early and acknowledging that he is the Progressive Pig I always though he was.

    Thank you Reason for filling me in on Rubio. I could never verbalize what it was about him I didn’t trust but this article helped me formulate an opinion.

    None of the republican candidates are going to win the White House. Hopefully the Libertarian candidate will.

  20. I make up to $90 an hour working from my home. My story is that I quit working at Walmart to work online and with a little effort I easily bring in around $40h to $86h? Someone was good to me by sharing this link with me, so now i am hoping i could help someone else out there by sharing this link… Try it, you won’t regret it!……
    http://www.worktoday7.com

  21. You’ll can have my bong when you pry it from my cold… Wait, what was I saying?

  22. Dude!

  23. There’s a for-and-against competition going on about drug prohibition at the Zero Aggression Project. You can register an opinion ranging from strongly support to strongly oppose. You can also sign a petition for-or-against drug prohibition. So far those who oppose drug prohibition are winning. You may want to weigh in….http://bit.ly/1Bl3jaN

  24. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do…… ?????? http://www.netcash5.com

  25. So the democrats are fine with laboratories of democracy when it comes to pot, but as it relates to gay marriage and healthcare it’s a one size fits all fed solution?

  26. The exact technical term is relegalization. The federal government banned 0.5% alcohol in June of 1919, backed by peacetime prohibition on the night of January 16, 1920. This brought a means of hiding money from political parasites enabled by Marx’ income tax (likewise added to the Constitution). Herbert Hoover used the income tax law to enforce prohibition even as prohibition and the 4th Amendment were mitigating the effect of the income tax law by fumigating money with the help of the stock market. The Hoover measure literally destroyed the economy by making banks into confiscatory money traps, a trick repeated in 1987 and again in 2007. When legal beer failed to raise the excise needed to restore boodle, lobbyists pointed to marijuana, which along with heroin had become popular during prohibition. Since getting rid of the communist personal income tax was “unthinkable,” marijuana was banned in the thirties, yet the tax-induced depression persisted.

  27. The U. of Texas Knight Center has the only news on how the rest of the Americas see God’s Own Party candidates in three languages.
    Rubio the prohibitionist has a brother-in-law busted for cocaine during the Reagan-Bush financial collapse and now living at his (Rubio’s) mom’s. Scratch one sanctimonious mob-controlled hypocrite. But all you teevee watchers could at least produce a table showing the Grand Old Prohibitionists and their positions on abortion clinics, wetbacks, potheads and other dope attics, keeping the income tax, jihads against Mohammedans, nuculer energy, conscription, socialized medicine and other issues of interest to libertarians. Think of it as software box specifications.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.