Marijuana

Marijuana Federalism's Time Has Come

Congress should make sure the next attorney general respects states' authority to set their own marijuana policy.

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In my 1996 campaign to return to Congress in Texas, both the Republican and Democratic parties opposed me. Republicans fought me in the primary and Democrats in the general election. Millions of dollars were spent attacking my opposition to the war on drugs in the most inflammatory ways imaginable. Many of the attacks even portrayed me as pro-drug use. This smear campaign was unsuccessful as most voters understood that opposing an unconstitutional, ineffective "war on drugs" meant that you were pro-freedom, not pro-drugs.

Evan Meyer/Dreamstime.com

Despite my showing that opposition to the drug war was not the political kiss of death, even in a conservative "Bible Belt"' district, during the majority of my time in Congress, few politicians joined my call to end the federal war on drugs. That began to change in the later years of my time in Congress and has accelerated since I left Congress in 2013.

Today, 33 states have legalized medical marijuana while ten have legalized recreational marijuana. The majority of Americans now live in states where some type of marijuana is legal. Further proof of changing attitudes is that in 2016, Donald Trump's stated support for respecting state's authority over marijuana policy not only did not damage his campaign, it did not even cost him support from the religious right.

In this year's elections, medical marijuana was legalized in the conservative states of Utah and Oklahoma while recreational marijuana was legalized in Michigan. Texas Representative Pete Sessions' use of his powerful position as chair of the House Rules Committee to block legislation prohibiting federal government from jailing sick people for the "crime" of using medical marijuana in accordance with their state laws may have played a role in his defeat. Voters, especially young voters, are increasingly turned off by conservatives who favor individual liberty and federalism when it comes to guns and Obamacare but favor a federal police state when it comes to marijuana.

Ironically, the other drug warrior to lose his government job this month is also named Sessions. Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions was very devoted to the war on marijuana. He revoked Obama-era policy prohibiting federal prosecution of individuals using marijuana in compliance with laws in their states.

Sessions resignation gave President Trump the ability to appoint an attorney general who agrees with his support for marijuana federalism. Unfortunately, Trump's pick to replace Sessions, William Barr, was a staunch supporter of the war on drugs when he previously served as attorney general from 1991-1993. Congress should make sure Mr. Barr will respect states' authority to set their own marijuana policies before confirming him.

Congress should protect states right to nullify federal anti-marijuana laws by passing the STATES Act. Introduced by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), the bill is supported by conservative Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R) and libertarians like my son, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul (R). The STATES Act enjoys true bipartisan support and advances the cause of limited, constitutional government.

The federal war on marijuana failed to reduce marijuana use. It did succeed in expanding the federal police state and shredding large parts of the Bill of Rights. Fortunately, the majority of Americans ejected the inane policy of locking people up for using a non-government approved drug. President Trump and Congress can side with this pro-Constitution majority by making sure the next Attorney General is a consistent supporter of the 10th Amendment and by passing the STATES Act.

Ron Paul, a former congressman for Texas, is host of the Ron Paul Liberty Report and Chairman of Campaign for Liberty.

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  1. Only if it is now more lucrative to the right people than prohibition has the time come.

    1. The parasite figured out that if it kills the host, then the game is lost.

  2. “to pass federal law guaranteeing it”

    We already passed a law – the 10th Amendment – we need a *statute,* since it seems the executive heeds statutes more than the Constitution (and does not always heed statutes).

    1. Except that SCOTUS does not really like applying the 10th amendment so let the federal law be considered constitutional. I am not sure it is the executive’s problem to correct it when the legislature and the judiciary both dropped the ball.

      1. The Pres gives a pledge to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.

        Now, I suppose if he refuses to enforce an unconstitutional law a lawless court might order him to enforce it, or a lawless Congress might impeach him, but then, if the President’s jb was easy they’d let anybody do it as opposed to using the rigorous selection process we have now.

        1. Yes, it is just more Congress’s job to fix this, more than any other since SCOTUS did not call BS.

  3. I learned from Michael Hihn that Ron Paul is no friend to the libertarian movement. Paul was so opposed to marriage equality that he tried to strip the Supreme Court of the ability to rule on the subject. This was the most severe violation of human rights in this country since slavery.

    If Reason has to promote current or former Republican politicians, it should stick to the respectable ones like Jeff Flake.

    1. “I learned from Michael Hihn”

      Well, there’s your problem.

      1. Michael Hihn was making major contributions to the American libertarian movement before I was even born. He’s uniquely positioned to offer insights into how our movement can grow.

        For instance, did you know the libertarian label is currently rejected by 91% of libertarians? That’s because we give too much credibility to people like Ron Paul. If he’s what normal people think when they hear the word “libertarian,” no wonder our brand isn’t more popular.

        1. “Michael Hihn was making major contributions to the American libertarian movement before I was even born.”

          That person, the real Michael Hihn, has nothing to do with the dirt bag on here who stole his name for use as a Reason troll. It’s a lot like the David Nolan who comments on here from time to time. The real Nolan, the one who invented the Nolan Chart, actually died some years ago. The fake one is a dirt bag (possibly the same one as pseudo-Hihn) who tries to fool people. He probably also votes for his dumb duopolistic tribe using the dead man’s identity.

          You gotta watch out for some of the weirdos around here.

          1. If the Michael Hihn who comments here isn’t the real one, how do you explain this page?

            1. It’s been several hours since this Ron Paul piece went up, and none of Hihn’s sock puppets have made an appearance. Perhaps the socketmaster has kicked the bucket? Let’s hope not!

              Michael Hihn, I summon thee!

              1. NEEDZ MOAR PENTAGRAMS!

          2. Thanks for that. I have been trying to figure out this Hinh thing since I got here. Seems like a Bigfoot hunt to me sometimes.

          3. “You gotta watch out for some of the weirdos around here.”
            *best Gomez Addams investigation*
            You rang?

            1. Sigh impersonation

              1. That was Lurch anyway.

        2. I would call Dr. Ron Paul a Conservative Constitutional Libertarian…..Paul has always espoused the best type of Libertarianism & Conservatism & that is because he tempers it by abiding to the Constitution! Ron Paul is much more of a true Libertarian than were Gary Johnson & Weld in 2016….Geez, I could not believe some of the Big Govt. crap they were promoting in 2016!

          Love him or hate him, Dr. Ron Paul has never wavered in his beliefs or agenda or ever compromised his principles! He is the most ethical pol of his generation & probably the most ethical since Calvin Coolidge! God Bless him!

          1. Huh. If only the libertarian party had nominated him for president…

    2. I learned from Michael Hihn

      You’re on fire today.

      1. It’s pretty amazing that he can just post Michael Hihn paraphrases and still do so well. This goes a long way to show the quality of OBL, and of course the beauty of Hihn.

        1. OBL would have to be parodying something that exists outside his own mind to have even an iota of “quality”.

    3. NONSENSE…..There is no federal right to marriage of ANY KIND in the Constitution & thus, it is a power only of the states & they get to define it in every way….Thus, the 14th Amendment does not apply & the case never should’ve come before SCOTUS in the first place!

    4. Are we reading the same article? The one about ending drug prohibition?

    5. If Ron Paul isn’t a valid libertarian, then nobody is. Put that in your gay pipe and smoke it.

  4. Woot, go Ron!

  5. libertarians like my son, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul (R)

    ??????

    1. That emoticon is foreign to this dimension. What do it mean?

      1. Picasso’s signature.

  6. …states’ authority to set their own marijuana policy?”
    Are you kidding me?
    The feds should terminate all states’ rights.
    This country can’t allow the states to have any autonomy.
    Otherwise some states might get uppity and start making laws for themselves.
    We all know what that leads to.

  7. My plant of choice is kratom and I live in fear every day that it will be made illegal. I will then be forced back to the doctor and hope she gives me a prescription for an opioid for an off label purpose. I take the lowest dose opioid one can prescribe and I have been at the same dose for over 10 years and I will never ask for more than that amount but I must suffer because some people get addicted to it. Not the best way to live but whatever.

    1. I also like another plant?barley that has been fermented. The feds tried to make that illegal once.

    2. I am very curious about kratom. Could you say more about the effects positive or negative?

      1. It works, but I wouldn’t try it until the feds say it will remain legal because it actually works. I tried it because I was moving and I would have to find a new doctor to prescribe opioids which is always a challenge and anxiety inducing. So now I have a stash of opioids along with a stash of kratom if Kratom happens to be made illegal.

        So if you do try it keep in mind some brands work better than others so buy small amounts of several different brands and try a new one each day. I threw out a lot of kratom because it was bunk but I eventually found a brand that consistently works for me. Also if it survives these fed efforts the industry will come out stronger and safer fixing the salmonella issue.

        Also keep in mind that I have a very low tolerance even after using opioids for over 10 years. So I actually couldn’t finish a prescription of Oxy because it made me nauseous. So I literally take the lowest dose of opioid in pill form and I take 1 a day. I respect opioids and I realize they are my “golden goose”, and the way you don’t kill that golden goose is by keeping tolerance low.

    3. And this is just one element of the evil of the “war on drugs”. That people must suffer for no good reason. I do wish the people who oppose the use of any substances for legitimate pain relief would have to endure said pain for just a bit. It wouldn’t take them very long at all to change their tune.

  8. I mean, I guess it’s a start, since there’s no possibility of the Feds canning the unconstitutional Controlled Substances Act in entirety.

  9. I’m smoking some untaxed and unregulated home grown marijuana.

  10. “Despite my showing that opposition to the drug war was not the political kiss of death, even in a conservative “Bible Belt”‘ district”
    And this is why I think this must be championed by Republicans. Because those otherwise opposed can get on board, because it is Republican led. And those supportive can get on board because it the right thing to do. Republicans will find it a winner politically, because most Americans approve. And then Dems will have to explain why they didn’t lead the charge.

    1. The Democrats will explain that ending the drug war is being promoted by large corporations who want to make money profiting from people’s addictions.

  11. Those who believe in limited government, personal responsibility, free markets, and individual liberty should embrace the ending of this irrational, un-American cannabis prohibition. It should be the cornerstone of current GOP policy.

    Federal studies show about half of the U.S. population has tried cannabis, at least 15% use it regularly, over 80% of high school seniors have reported cannabis “easy to get” for decades. Those who want to use cannabis heavily already are. Prohibition does little or nothing to prevent problematic use. In many cases prohibition makes cannabis usage problematic where it would not have been otherwise, be it light, moderate, or heavy usage. For the most part, cannabis prohibition only successfully prohibits effective regulation.

  12. Those who believe in limited government, personal responsibility, free markets, and individual liberty should embrace the ending of this irrational, un-American cannabis prohibition. It should be the cornerstone of current GOP policy.

    Federal studies show about half of the U.S. population has tried cannabis, at least 15% use it regularly, over 80% of high school seniors have reported cannabis “easy to get” for decades. Those who want to use cannabis heavily already are. Prohibition does little or nothing to prevent problematic use. In many cases prohibition makes cannabis usage problematic where it would not have been otherwise, be it light, moderate, or heavy usage. For the most part, cannabis prohibition only successfully prohibits effective regulation.

    1. A few issues created by prohibition: there are no quality controls to reduce contaminants (harmful pesticides, molds, fungus, other drugs), there is no practical way to prevent regular underage sales, billions in tax revenue are lost which can be used for all substance abuse treatment, underground markets for all drugs are empowered as a far more popular substance is placed within them expanding their reach and increasing their profits, criminal records make pursuing many decent careers difficult, police and court resources are unnecessarily tied up by pursuing and prosecuting victimless ‘crimes’, public mistrust and disrespect for our legal system, police, and government is increased, which can be devastating to our country.

      Prohibition is also very expensive, though, a cash cow for a number of powerful groups such as those related to law enforcement and the prison industry. These organizations have powerful lobbies and influence that perpetuate a failed drug policy through ignorance, fear, disinformation and misinformation. This ensures an endless supply of lucrative contracts, grants and subsidies from the government and its taxpayers to support their salaries, tools of the trade, and other expenses. Cash, property and other assets from civil forfeiture laws also significantly fatten their coffers while often violating civil rights.

      1. America was built on the principles of freedom and liberty. In some cases there are extreme circumstances that warrant intervention with criminal law. In the case of mind-altering drugs we have already set this precedent with alcohol. Cannabis is less harmful than alcohol to the consumer and especially to others. If we are to have justice, then the penalties for using, possessing and selling cannabis should be no worse than those of alcohol.

  13. Do you think the voters’ knowing he’s a doctor cause them to trust his judgment on drug issues?

    1. What a depressing thought.

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  15. Oh, good ol’ Ron. Why can’t I live in a parallel universe where he won the presidency in 2008, and the US is almost out of national debt, no longer engaged in foreign wars, and has decriminalized all drugs? Stupid American voting public… šŸ™

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