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Free Minds & Free Markets

The Growing Consensus for Legalizing Marijuana

America is becoming Weed Nation.

The United States remains starkly divided between red and blue, with Republicans and Democrats each registering some gains and some setbacks in the elections. But on one important issue, a national consensus is emerging that transcends party and ideology. America is becoming Weed Nation.

On Tuesday, Michigan became the 10th state, along with the District of Columbia, to decide to legalize marijuana for purely recreational use. A quarter of Americans will live in states that let them get stoned without fear of the constable.

The states include not only reliably crunchy Oregon and Massachusetts but two that went for Donald Trump in 2016—Alaska and Michigan. They range from the East Coast to the West and from the first in population, California, to the 49th, Vermont. The others are Colorado, Maine, Nevada, and Washington.

Then there are the states that allow marijuana to be used for medical needs. On Tuesday, Missouri and Utah—Utah!—voted to join the club. That brings the total number of states that allow pot to be legally consumed in some circumstances to 32, according to the Drug Policy Alliance, plus D.C.

Pro-pot candidates also did well Tuesday. Illinois elected a governor, J.B. Pritzker, who favors allowing recreational cannabis. So did Connecticut (Ned Lamont), Maine (Janet Mills), Minnesota (Tim Walz), and New Mexico (Michelle Lujan Grisham). The winner in Wisconsin, Tony Evers, has said he is "not opposed" to it and would like a statewide referendum to settle the issue.

Cannabis has already run away with the contest for public favor. In 2000, according to the Pew Research Center, only 31 percent of Americans supported legalizing recreational pot. Today, 62 percent do.

But even in states where cannabis is legal, it isn't. Federal law still bans weed, with penalties that include prison time even for mere users. Sick people smoking it to relieve chronic pain, muscular dystrophy, or epilepsy, in faithful compliance with their state laws, are not exempt from prosecution.

Under Barack Obama, the Justice Department adopted a hands-off policy toward states with permissive policies. Then-Attorney General Eric Holder issued directives instructing U.S. attorneys to defer to state laws on medical and recreational cannabis. The administration also tried to provide banks some assurance that they could handle the accounts of legitimate marijuana suppliers without being prosecuted.

But as soon as he was installed as attorney general, die-hard prohibitionist Jeff Sessions reversed course. He ordered prosecutors to fully enforce federal laws reflecting "Congress's determination that marijuana is a dangerous drug and that marijuana activity is a serious crime."

Does Congress really still believe that? This ought to be an issue on which the two parties can come together—not on whether marijuana should be legal but on whether states should be allowed to make their own choices. Last year, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) joined with Democratic colleagues Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York to propose ending the federal prohibition on medical cannabis.

The conservative Tenth Amendment Center regards the federal law as an unconstitutional usurpation of state sovereignty. It was Georgetown professor Randy Barnett, a darling of the conservative Federalist Society, who in 2004 argued before the Supreme Court that the federal government had no right to stop individuals from growing pot for personal use.

He lost the case, but the Court's most conservative justice agreed with him. "Our federalist system, properly understood, allows California and a growing number of other States to decide for themselves how to safeguard the health and welfare of their citizens," Clarence Thomas wrote in his dissent. "If Congress can regulate this under the Commerce Clause, then it can regulate virtually anything."

Neither party is consistent on matters of federalism. But this is the rare occasion when Republicans could enlist Democrats in curbing Washington's meddling in matters that can be handled perfectly well at the state level—deploying a concept that liberals might find attractive under President Donald Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Republicans might gain politically from eliminating the federal role. Taking a more moderate position on a matter that millions of people regard as no business of politicians could soften their image among independent voters. Passing an important measure with bipartisan support would demonstrate that the 2018 election results didn't prevent our lawmakers from getting anything useful done.

I can just imagine it happening. And no, I'm not high.

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  • Ordinary Person||

    Smart Nancy Pelosi should make it a priority because it not only advances liberty and justice but it should reduce the use of opioids.

  • perlchpr||

    So, the Real Nancy Pelosi will concentrate on impeaching Trump, instead.

  • Don't look at me!||

    It's what the people want, ( or is it what they are told what they want?)

  • Lester224||

    Actually, I doubt this. The Democrats want Pence even less than Trump. Besides, unless Trumps tax returns or other very obvious corruption actually turn public opinion (esp among the 30-40% who approve him) totally against him, impeachment is a guaranteed loser for 2020.

  • aajax||

    Pelosi is in no mood to impeach. She is Smart Nancy. Of course, if Trump pushes his corruption and autocracy too far, all bets are off.

  • Wise Old Fool||

    She already said she wouldn't do that unless Mueller's probe turned up something. She will go after his taxes though. There should be some juicy info in there.

  • DiegoF||

    "America is becoming Weed Nation."

    Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

    But are we also becoming Buttsex Nation?

  • Cy||

    Someday, people are going to wake up and realize, butt sex is part of freedom.

  • DiegoF||

    Speak for yourself. For me, to the contrary, butt sex is part of bondage.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Butt sex is gross. Nobody needs more than 2 holes.

  • DiegoF||

    Ah, a fellow monotreme erotica enthusiast! Let's swap Sonic/Knuckles fic.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Many working at Reason want us to be a Mesican Nation.

  • Wise Old Fool||

    Nah considering 1/3 of the country have their noses up Trump brown stank zone I would guess that we are the brown nose nation; at least the deplorables are.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    Whoo Hoo. Finally somewhere I can get to without a huge amount of effort. Also somewhere that isn't insanely regulation and tax oriented.

  • Number 2||

    "Under Barack Obama, the Justice Department adopted a hands-off policy toward states with permissive policies. Then-Attorney General Eric Holder issued directives instructing U.S. attorneys to defer to state laws on medical and recreational cannabis."

    Are you still peddling that nonsense Chapman? Tell that to the medical marijuana producers and growers raided by the feds after Holder issued his "directives." You also might want to re-read Obama's National Drug Strategy from 2010 that described medical marijuana as a "fraud" that posed "serious dangers" to America's youth. And let's not forget that the "I Have a Pen and Phone" president who had no problem re-writing environment, securities, Title IX and wage and hour law through excessive administrative action had the power at any time to remove Cannabis from Schedule I, but refused to do so.

    The differences between Obama/Holder and Sessions were cosmetic, not substantive.

  • Don't look at me!||

    Think of all the black men in jail for marijuana charges that Obama could have prevented , but did not.

  • DiegoF||

    I blame his white half.

  • Wise Old Fool||

    You're blaming Obama on a war that started with Reagan. LMFAO do you guys ever get tired of blaming Obama for systemic flaws? Blame Obama died 2 years ago, now you got a new person to blame, Pelosi.

  • DiegoF||

    Maybe the new Crossfit bro will be a CBD enthusiast or something. Shit like that tends to correlate together.

  • Bubba Jones||

    Came here for this.

    And tell me again about marijuana shops having access to banks.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Another battle to be won by the liberal-libertarian mainstream in its half-century-in-the-making victory in America's culture war. Conservatives and Republicans will continue to strive to delay liberty and decency, and succeed for a time in some lesser hamlets, but this has become predictable. The good guys will prevail. Right-wingers will mutter bitterly about all of this damned progress.

  • Don't look at me!||

    Same response to you

    Think of all the black men in jail for marijuana charges that Obama could have prevented , but did not.

  • ||

    The Democrats have always been against the Drug War. They've just been too scared to not pretend to passionately support it.

  • Rockabilly||

    Joe Biden coined the term "Drug Czar," after watching Reefer Madness.

    He thought the federal government could do more to warn the nation's youth about the dangerous reefer plant.

    And it was FDR, the socialist god, who signed the Marijuana Tax Act.

  • Wise Old Fool||

    Oh yeah those libertarian powerhouses that are taking over the media. LMGFAO

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Since the Controlled Substances Act is unconstitutional, there was never any constitutional authority to make marijuana illegal in the first place.

    See Prohibition 18th Amendment.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Smoking pot leads to listening to devil music which leads to Satan worship which leads to virgin sacrifices. Won't someone think about the virgins? I mean other than Muslim suicide bombers.

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    I think about them constantly. CONSTANTLY.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Remember when weed smoking Bill Clinton eliminated all criminal laws against marijuana?

    Yeah, neither do I.

  • ||

    weed smoking Bill Clinton

    He never inhaled.

  • Bubba Jones||

    "I never broke the laws of this country"

  • Gray_Jay||

    Off topic: So, no post on Montana Judge shutting down the Keystone XL pipeline? https://thehill.com /policy/energy-environment /415862-judge-blocks-keystone-xl-pipeline

    Aside, how is there no full-text of the opinion available? Or at least, I couldn't find one without PACER.

    It's the 21st fucking century. How hard is it to make a .pdf of your opinion and put it on your court's website?

  • aajax||

    Tried getting any EPA or NASA climate change info from .gov lately?

  • Gray_Jay||

    Off topic: So, no post on Montana Judge shutting down the Keystone XL pipeline? https://thehill.com /policy/energy-environment /415862-judge-blocks-keystone-xl-pipeline

    Aside, how is there no full-text of the opinion available? Or at least, I couldn't find one without PACER.

    It's the 21st fucking century. How hard is it to make a .pdf of your opinion and put it on your court's website?

  • mariealaura||

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  • Wise Old Fool||

    Go away russian bot.

  • Tankboy||

    Recreational or medicinal use may become legal in ALL the States, but while it is still a Federal crime, use or possession of weed prohibits you from legally being in possession of a firearm. Is this a stealth work-around for 2A opponents? Everyone's on weed, no one gets a gun - end of problem!

  • Bubba Jones||

    My employer drug tests.

  • Wise Old Fool||

    Then you're fucked.

  • SteveC||

    When California legalized marijuana, the Drug War had its Stalingrad. Marijuana is a done deal. The case for its legalization was always obvious; the case for other drugs much less so. Meth, heroin, cocaine, and the opioids have a much uglier side, some almost as bad as alcohol.

  • Nuwanda||

    Its Stalingrad? I don't think so. All that happened was California assumed the role of enforcer for the purposes of tax revenue, and is actively encouraging a black market via those taxes.

    Heroin, cocaine, etc. should all be legal. You don't get to argue one and not the others. Not if you're principled in your approach. If you can claim cocaine is a special case that demands illegality then others argue the same with weed. My drug good; your drug bad.

  • ||

    All that happened was California assumed the role of enforcer for the purposes of tax revenue, and is actively encouraging a black market via those taxes.

    Yeah, but it normalized the idea of legal, recreational marijuana, even if in practice it is (ever so slightly) less available now. Deregulation is a much less difficult row to hoe than legalization.

    Heroin, cocaine, etc. should all be legal. You don't get to argue one and not the others.

    Yes, as betrayed by the phrase "some almost as bad as alcohol." Are we advocating returning to alcohol prohibition? No? Well, then . . .

  • aajax||

    Unless the principle involved is public health. Then everything is case by case. However, I would argue that legalization of all if not most drugs would be healthier than having a black market.

  • Wise Old Fool||

    I believe low end to middle grade (say cocaine) stuff be legalized and controlled but stuff like fetanyl will never be safe.

  • Wise Old Fool||

    Never seen anyone addicted to weed. I've seen plenty hooked on heroin and coke.

  • Nuwanda||

    So what? How does addiction change anything? Personally, I'm addicted to the melodic strains of John Williams.

  • mjs_28s||

    Here I sit in Idaho watching a parent fight parkinson's and the current set of meds only partially handles the tremors.

    They went to Oregon and I said to test a tincture of high CBD low THC and do not take the parkinson's meds the same day. It was tested and the first time, tremors reduced more than the actual prescribed drugs can do and there is also more hand mobility.

    I had them try the HEMP based CBD in Idaho and it did nothing for him. Either the tiny amount of THC helped from the real deal or there are other cannabinoids that are in the real thing that hemp doesn't have.

    Nice thing is that said parent functions better and doesn't get any high or any other side effects.

    Thanks Idaho for fucking medical users over. We are surrounded by states that allow it but here we sit thinking like the puritans that believed all the bullshit in the Refer Madness propaganda.

    Also, thanks Idaho fucks in government for likely reducing the quality of life for many people that could be helped with marijuana products.

  • aajax||

    Trump will ease up on marijuana when some of his cronies have their sweetheart deals in place as distributors.

  • Widhalm19||

    While I favor the legalization of all banned drugs (let natural selection do it's work), doing recreational drugs is precisely the SOMA Huxley wrote about in Brave New World. Being stoned 24 / 7 ain't much of a life.

  • Wise Old Fool||

    Our current system isn't set up to handle it because anyone can go to an emergency room and that drives up costs for ME. If they left the crackheads out to die on the street then I'd be fine with it, but they don't. Until that happens keep the hard shit illegal. I believe the stigma does keep a lot of people using weed and staying away from fetanyl, heroin, and crack.

  • joebanana||

    The war on drugs is unconstitutional, illegal, and tyrannical. The prohibition of "intoxicating liquors" (alcohol) required the 18 amendment. There is NO amendment for the prohibition of cannabis, or other "drugs". Declaring "war" on an inanimate object is insane. This is a war against Americans, on American soil, by a criminal government. Every member of Congress is guilty of treason, for approving and funding this war against Americans. It's also a racist war, designed to imprison minorities. (look it up). And as usual, it's a war based entirely on LIES, and deception, false and misleading information, and propaganda.
    Until they amend the Constitution, the war on some drugs will remain a violation of human, and Constitutional rights, as we as, illegal, and criminal.

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