Marijuana

Scott Walker Tries (and Fails) to Clarify His Position on Marijuana Legalization

Federalism and the urge to bash Obama pull him in opposite directions.

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Walker for America

In a column last month, I noted that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, had not taken a clear position on the proper federal response to marijuana legalization in states such as Colorado and Washington. He still hasn't, although not for lack of trying. Via BuzzFeed News, here is how Walker addressed the question in a radio interview on Wednesday:

Host: In 30 seconds, would your Justice Department go after Colorado for legalized marijuana sales?

Walker: For me I think that should be a state issue, but I also think that you can't ignore the laws. And until the federal government changes the laws, you don't get to pick and choose in a just society whether you enforce the laws or not. You have to change them.

Host: So yes, you would go after Colorado?

Walker: Well, I would enforce the law that was on the books no matter what it is. And again if we are going to change it, change it in the Congress. I believe it is a states' issue, so I don't have a problem changing it. I don't think marijuana is something that should be legalized. I've opposed it in my own state because law enforcement in both political parties have warned me that that's a gateway drug. They worry it would open the door to others out there. But to me I still think that's something best handled at the state level. But the federal level, you've got to change the law. You don't just get to pick and choose what laws you enforce.

Walker seems torn between the federalism that Republicans traditionally support (in theory, at least) and their criticism of President Obama's lawless ways. The result is barely coherent. Although it's true that Obama has been known to ignore the law when it's inconvenient (as have his predecessors from both parties), his response to marijuana legalization is not a good example of that tendency. The Justice Department, for good and ill, has a great deal of discretion in enforcing the Controlled Substances Act. Its current policy of focusing on marijuana offenders who violate state law or impinge on "federal enforcement priorities" uses that discretion in a way that respects state policy choices, which is something federalists should welcome.

According to the Supreme Court's 2005 ruling in Gonzales v. Raich, the power to regulate interstate commerce authorizes the federal government to enforce its ban on marijuana even in states that have legalized the drug for medical or recreational use (indeed, even against people whose marijuana-related activities are confined to their homes). The Court's absurdly broad reading of the Commerce Clause should trouble federalists. "If Congress can regulate this under the Commerce Clause," dissenting Justice Clarence Thomas observed in Raich, "then it can regulate virtually anything—and the Federal Government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers." But even if we assume that the feds constitutionally can arrest state-licensed marijuana merchants, that does not mean they should, especially if you believe, as Walker says he does, that it "should be a state issue."

Instead of promising a crackdown à la Chris Christie, Walker could reconcile his avowed federalism with the sensibilities of social conservatives by embracing the same position many of his rivals have taken: 1) I do not personally favor marijuana legalization, but 2) I believe the issue should be left to the states. That's all he needs to say.

NEXT: Rand Paul's Anti-Sanctuary City Bill Values Arbitrary Government Rules Over Liberty

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  1. I don’t think marijuana is something that should be legalized. I’ve opposed it in my own state because law enforcement in both political parties have warned me that that’s a gateway drug.

    Cop sucker. DO NOT WANT.

    1. Cool. Name me a candidate from either major party that hasn’t sucked up the cops.

    2. Yeah Man, Scott Walker is a cop sucker, ya got that right! And he’s a jack-booted fascist to boot!

      Hey Scott Walker… C’mere & suck my cop!

    3. Wasn’t walker the one that had cops kicking in the doors of him and his buddies? You’d think he’d take anything the cops say with a grain odbsalt

  2. Barely coherent?

    Its nuanced and stupid, but easy to understand.

    1. His nuance is self-contradictory.

      until the federal government changes the laws, you don’t get to pick and choose in a just society whether you enforce the laws or not

      AND

      I believe it is a states’ issue…

      are mutually exclusive.

      1. Not really. The first sentence is a reality and the second is a preference. The reality a preference are in conflict.

        1. Exactly. He supports federalism in theory and enforcing laws as written in practice. Including bad laws.

          What he is misding is presidential pardon powers which allows him to blanket pardon bad laws, making them unenforcable.

        2. No really. As a factual matter states do get to ignore federal marijuana laws today. The first sentence is preference as is the second. That is what has the socons so butt hurt.

      2. Well, I would enforce the law that was on the books no matter what it is. And again if we are going to change it, change it in the Congress. I believe it is a states’ issue, so I don’t have a problem changing it

        Not sure how that’s difficult to understand, unless we’re presuming a president can declare laws invalid and a “state issue” by fiat.

        1. I don’t like this decision my boss made, but I am going to carry it out until such time as he changes his mind.

          I think my wife should be doing the laundry, but until I can convince her otherwise, I’m going to be sorting whites and colors.

          I don’t think social security should exist in its current form, but until it is changed I’m going to keep cashing my checks.

          There is nothing inherently contradictory with these positions, just as there is nothing wrong with saying, “I don’t agree with federal regulations that keep this from being left to the states, but until Congress changes them, I will enforce those laws.”

          Frankly, given the last 16 years, I think people would be happy to see a president who feels he should enforce laws that he may not personally agree with. We should be very wary of leaving these federal laws on the books. Even if they are not prosecuted actively, they can be used by overzealous prosecutors to pile on charges in other cases or intimidate people selectively.

          The problem I have with Walker isn’t that it is a contradictory reasoning, it’s that I know he won’t be passionate about changing them were he to get to the Whitehouse. I also suspect he would bow to nanny pressures and veto a bill if it came before him.

          1. I agree. Walker needs to state clearly that he will work to repeal the federal prohibition of maryjane. He can still oppose ligalization within the States, in keeping with his professed Federalist beliefs.

  3. Its current policy of focusing on marijuana offenders who violate state law or impinge on “federal enforcement priorities” uses that discretion in a way that respects state policy choices, which is something federalists should welcome.

    Or a great way to lure with a false sense of security recreational drug businesses out of the black market and into plain view of a ready-to-pounce DEA, which is something drug warriors should welcome.

  4. “If Congress can regulate this under the Commerce Clause,” dissenting Justice Clarence Thomas observed in Raich, “then it can regulate virtually anything?and the Federal Government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers.”

    Well, that’s actually the entire point, isn’t it?

    1. SimpsonsWickard did it first

  5. Sorry, Jacob, but there’s no reconciling that diarrhea.

    Mr. Walker, what you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

    Also, “gateway drug”? What a drug warrior dipshit.

    1. But law enforcement — FROM BOTH PARTIES no less — have assured him it is indeed a gateway. And we all know cops are geniuses when it comes to researching the neurophysiology and biochemistry of addiction!

      What a dipshit.

      1. Arguably they should work on learning how to look up an address correctly before delving into meaty topics like biochemistry and third grade math.

    2. May God NOT have mercy on your soul. FTFY.

    3. I generally like Walker but this is pretty insipid. What his cop buddies really meant was that we have lots of jobs and budgets that depend on pot being illegal so pot bad.

  6. I didn’t see his comments as all that nuanced. He gives lip service to federalism while making it clear he’s a drug warrior first and foremost.

    Walker does not fail to disappoint.

    1. Where are you getting that he’s a drug warrior? Walker’s running as a union buster. The Drug warrior stuff seems a bit of an afterthought.

      1. You just have to read what he says:

        “I don’t think marijuana is something that should be legalized. I’ve opposed it in my own state because law enforcement in both parties have warned me that’s a gateway drug. They worry it would open the door to others out there.”

        1. Or you could look at how the actual law enforcement officers spent their time underneath Governor Walker. They didn’t go after actual drug dealers, and instead went after Walker supporters with SWAT teams after he threatened their unions.

          1. Didn’t he specifically not go after the police unions?

            1. Yes. But that’s too nuanced for some to understand.

      2. Only busting unions he doesn’t like.

  7. No matter what else they do, anyone who continues prosecuting the war on drugs is unacceptable to me. The war on drugs is the single biggest infringement of natural rights since slavery.

    1. + 1 Toke Over The Line (by Lawrence Welk)

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ye3ecDYxOkg

    2. I tell people this all the time.

      They never fail to look at me as if I have three heads.

  8. Is there really a such thing as a gateway drug? If so, why would canabis be a gateway drug but alcohol and caffeine not? Because it’s illegal? Just because users of dangerous drugs start out smoking pot does not mean that everyone, or that many people, will. Correlation is not causation.

    It’s sort of like saying that beer is a gateway to liquor, or that aspirin is a gateway to hydrocodone. I think they call it a gateway drug because they have no other reason to call it dangerous.

    1. Marijuana is a gateway to the black market. It’s a gateway to other illegal drugs only because it is a gateway to the black market. If it was legal like booze, then it would no longer be a gateway to the black market, and likewise would no longer be a gateway to more powerful illegal drugs.

      Thing is, I think cops like it that way. Marijuana is their gateway to the black market. Its illegal status allows them to shake down pot smokers for their dealers, and then shake down those dealers to find bigger fish. If it was legal, then they’d lose that gateway to the black market.

      So much for protecting and serving. If that was their mission, then they’d be happy to close that gateway. Closing that gateway would make it rather difficult to find drugs like cocaine and heroin. It’s not like the guy at the liquor store or legal pot shop will refer you to a dealer in hard drugs, while a dealer in illegal pot just might.

      1. “…shake down pot smokers for their dealers, and then shake down those dealers to find bigger fish.”

        As long as those fish aren’t tooooooo big.

        I used to be buddies with a cop who was made an undercover drug dude. He said they were only allowed to go so high. If they got someone above that level they would be taken off of the case and all files were destroyed.

        The fact is that it is easy to climb the drug ladder and the drug market as we have it would not exist if the state was actually serious about shutting it down.

        As the Hildebeast said, there is too much money in it.

        1. So if they get too high on the ladder then they may disrupt their stream of revenue from stolen goods. That’s sick.

        2. I used to be buddies with a cop who was made an undercover drug dude. He said they were only allowed to go so high. If they got someone above that level they would be taken off of the case

          So it’s like The Wire, eh?

          1. I just finished The Wire a few weeks ago. Awesome show. They even took stab at what a decriminalized drug market would look like.

      2. Marijuana is a gateway to the black market. It’s a gateway to other illegal drugs only because it is a gateway to the black market. If it was legal like booze, then it would no longer be a gateway to the black market, and likewise would no longer be a gateway to more powerful illegal drugs.

        This makes sense. But it also suggests that allowing grocery stores to sell liquor as well as beer and wine makes beer and wine gateways to liquor by availability.

        Allowing cannabis for medical use would bypass its alleged gateway-ness entirely because of the lack of connection to the black market and because access to the drug is the same as access to more dangerous Schedule II meds like hydrocodone. And, as you pointed out, taking weed out of the black market takes away its gateway-ness. Therefore, I call bullshit on keeping pot illegal because it’s an alleged gateway drug.

        1. Some people seem to actually believe that there is something about the drug that makes it a gateway to other drugs. The fact that the vast majority of pot smokers never become regular users of harder drugs seems like it should be enough to discredit the idea, but it persists.

          1. Animism is quite popular.

      3. it’s also a gateway to realizing that pretty much everything you’ve been told about drugs is bullshit. which doesnt mean there aren’t some drugs with real health hazards, but since everything you were told about weed isn’t true, why would you believe the stuff you’ve heard about heroin?

    2. Oh, MaryJane is a gateway drug alright. No doubt about it.

      A gateway to stealing your shit and locking you in a cage.

    3. Let’s assume that aspirin is in fact the gateway to oxycontin, and pot is the gateway to acid. SO WHAT? It makes no difference to me if someone else likes taking stuff I have no wish to take.

      I think the desire to save other people from their own poor choices is misguided and illegitimate. It comes from the same sort of paternalistic at best and power-hungry at worst “I know what’s best for you” thinking as the desire to ban trans fats and sugary drinks. Adults are fucking grown ups and should be allowed to decide what they can put into their own bodies. If they overdo it or shorten their lives in the process, that’s their own problem.

      1. Adults are fucking grown ups

        Which is how we got to be here. Adults fucking kids or kids fucking kids doesn’t do it.

  9. There is nothing wrong with an urge to bash Obama.

    In fact, that is a urge that should be indulged at every opportunity.

  10. Well, I would enforce the law that was on the books no matter what it is.
    What could possibly go wrong with that?

  11. –spits up coffee– Hahahaha. So *this* is the fall back plan in case Boy Wonder loses? I say we’re in trouble if that’s the case. Unlike you guys I don’t have to “clarify” the positions of the various right-wingers running for office.

    http://www.newsmax.com/US/bern…..id/645835/

    1. Says he stopped short of advocating for national legalization, so I gather he’s not that serious about ending the drug war.

      Either way, I do hope your boy beats Hillary at least.

  12. Hey Jacob,

    A simple and short question for you. Why don’t we just support someone that supports marijuana legalization? Personally, I’m sick to death of two things: bullshit wars where politicians send people to die for nothing and people going to jail for stupid shit. Maybe we should elect someone who won’t do those things. So far, I say that our new best buds (pun intended) in the Republican Party have been a terrific disappointment. Maybe we should try electing people who actually limit government instead of people who say they want to limit government and then end up launching trillion dollar wars in the ME.

    1. Yeah sure is unfortunate that Bernie “Deodorant causes children to starve” Sanders has lacked the courage to come out in support of legalization but as with all socialists he is not interested in anything that reduces government power unless it involves abortion.

      1. Permitting abortion expands gov’t power.

        Free abortions for some, New Regulatory Opportunities for others! (No tiny American flags for anybody)

    2. “limit government”

      Socialism.

      Hmmmm….

  13. you don’t get to pick and choose in a just society whether you enforce the laws or not.

    In a just society, there wouldn’t be unjust laws to not-enforce.

  14. Walker was perfectly coherent.

    Federal laws should be enforced. He thinks the federal law should be changed, leaving it to states to decide, but thinks that states should not make it legal either.

    What do you find mysterious? Or do you just not like Walker?

  15. There’s some inclarity, but it looks to me like he’s saying Congress should amend the CSA to provide that federal law on pot conform to that of the states it’s being implemented in, rather than that the administration engage in selective enforcement on such basis.

  16. If Scott Walker can’t be Libertarian on this issue, I think he’ll find it very difficult to be for freedom on other personal liberty issues. I’m cutting him out of my favorite threesome which included him along with Rand Paul and Carly Fiorina. Thus, I’m going to add another Governor: Rick Perry.

    1. “If you want to go somewhere you can smoke medicinal weed then you ought to be able to do that.” – – Gov. Rick Perry

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  18. No need to — GASP! — legalize! Just quit funding enforcement.Shift budgets around so drugs become the medical problem they are, right? Well, no. The enforcers keep their jobs by scaring voters and ripping off people too weak to fight. I am confident that Scott Walker will flame out.

    Our real problem is Jeb!, who is just as rigid and just as ignorant of the dynamics of prohibition.

  19. Or perhaps he should just make the conservative argument for legalization:

    “Whose interests are served by the drug war? The U.S. government enforces a drug cartel. The major beneficiaries from drug prohibition are the drug lords, who can maintain a cartel that they would be unable to maintain without current government policy.” – – Milton Friedman

    “Conservatives who favor federal ‘wars’ on drugs, gambling and other behaviors should understand the damage they have done to the constitutional underpinnings of limited government.” – – George Will

    “Even if one takes every reefer madness allegation of the prohibitionists at face value, marijuana prohibition has done far more harm to far more people than marijuana ever could.” – – William F Buckley Jr.

  20. Soon Rick Perry Redux will start sporting glasses to improve his IQ Perception scores.

    The only meaningful difference between Walker and the idiot Perry is the drawl of their ‘Oops’.

  21. As the hypothetical chief law enforcement officer of the federal government, he would enforce federal law regardless of his affinity to federalism or personal views regarding legalization. Where’s the lack of clarity? He wasn’t asked whether it was a federalist question, but whether POTUS Walker’s DOJ would enforce the law.

    Another Reason weed-screed…

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  23. “And until the federal government changes the laws, you don’t get to pick and choose in a just society whether you enforce the laws or not. You have to change them.”

    Of course, he’s out of his mind. States actually DO get to pick and choose whether to enforce federal laws, because there’s never been a requirement that they enforce them.

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