A recent opinion article on creators.com headlines, “Let States Write Their Own Pot Laws.”
The Orange County Register editorial board argues that the president should move marijuana to Schedule II status, making it easier to prescribe in medical marijuana states. It also points out the confused signals coming from the Department of Justice. And this was before the DOJ announced it would not challenge new laws for recreational marijuana in Washington and Colorado, even while insisting weed is still illegal.
“I think they’re confused about what to do,” the California coordinator for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws said.
After arguing extensively for reclassifing marijuana, the board brushes by the real solution. Pointing out that states are the “crucible of democracy, it says Obama “should to ask his Justice Department and DEA to let the 50 states establish, and enforce, their own marijuana laws.”
In fact, nobody should need to ask permission. The federal government has no power to regulate plants grown within a state.
This is the way our country was supposed to be. Each state makes its own laws. The federal government was to have very limited powers, while the states were to have most of the power to make laws. This is called federalism, and James Madison writing in the Tenth Federalist Paper said this will “control the violence of faction.” He says that, “The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States.”
By ignoring this principle, we have caused havoc. We have spent millions of federal tax dollars trying to enforce unconstitutional marijuana laws. We have created a cottage industry with thousands of people in jail because of the “drug war.” We have even interfered in the policies of other countries.
The federalist principle was codified in our Constitution in article I, Section 8, enumerating the powers of Congress. These powers are very limited and the writing is very clear. Only lawyers could twist their meaning, and this is what the nine federally paid lawyers of the Supreme Court do.
We may not all agree on what the state regulations, if any, should be. That’s the beauty of the system. It allows the people of the states to express their differing views. The people in Colorado and Washington recently gave the OK for recreational use of marijuana. The people in the southern bible belt may feel differently. What sense does it make to force a one-size fits all policy on 350 million people?
The bottom line is we don’t need permission. Every time the federal government enforces a marijuana “law,” it violates the highest law of the land. The states simply need to continue moving forward according to the will of their people. This action is nullifying these unconstitutional laws every day, as evidence by the DOJ back-down.
If we truly live under the rule of law, when the Congress, the president, and the Supreme Court oversteps their authority, it is up to the states to assert their right to nullify or not follow these laws. If we are to regain our legacy of federalism, the states need to continue to write their own laws on many different fronts.
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