The other day, I ran across an article on Reason.com headlined Marijuana and States’ Rights: A Reason Debate. Intrigued, I clicked the link and perused the article.
Kevin A. Sabet, PhD, director of the Drug Policy Institute at the University of Florida and a former senior advisor in the Obama Administration’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, and Ethan Nadelmann, the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, debated the following question:
Should states be free to chart their own course with regard to marijuana policy (both medical and recreational)?
Predictably, the former federal drug adviser said, “Nope. Not outside of federal ‘law.'”
“My basic answer is that states can chart their own course, but that their course should remain within bounds of national and international law,” Sabet said.
He goes on to talk about all of the potential horrors of legalization.
Nadelmann counters with a pretty good point.
“Federal law in this area will only change as a result of political pressures associated with changes in state laws.”
Then he goes on at length refuting Sabet’s horrors of legalization with factoids about the evils of prohibition.
I don’t disagree with Nadelmann, but he completely misses the most basic argument. In fact, I can blow Sabet out of the water with one sentence.
“The federal government lacks the Constitutional authority to enforce a federal drug policy.”
I don’t care how horrible legalization might turn out. I don’t really care about the evils of prohibition (and there are plenty) – at least not when it comes to the question of a federal drug policy. Doesn’t matter. The feds can’t legitimately do it.
End of story.
Doubt me? Then answer me this question: if the federal government actually has the constitutional power to prohibit drugs, why did it take a constitutional amendment to prohibit alcohol? Why didn’t the feds just create an Office of National Alcohol Control Policy and embark on a “War on Booze?”
Because they didn’t have the authority. They knew it. And at that point in history, Americans still cared about constitutional limits.
How sad that two men debating on the authority of states to chart their own drug policy never once mentioned the Constitution.
For information on how states are pushing back against unconstitutional federal drug laws, click HERE.
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