Nullification of unconstitutional marijuana criminalization laws is alive and well.

In the last 17 years, the DEA has performed 528 raids, with 270 of those under Pres. Obama (51 percent). So, Obama is keeping up, and even surpassing, the pace on domestic raids. That’s despite 26 states either decriminalizing marijuana, legalizing it for medical use or legalizing it completely.

But how effective is this effort? It may appear that the federal government can still shut down whatever drug activity they want. But can they really?

There have also been recent surges in shutdowns of medical marijuana dispensaries in California. Some of the shutdowns were due to DEA raids. However, the vast majority came about by way of local zoning ordinances. This is no reflection on the effectiveness of federal government. Keep in mind that citizens have infinitely more power to control local ordinances versus federal laws. Local officials have to face their constituents in the grocery store. Apparently, quite a few Californians didn’t want dispensaries in their neighborhoods, so local governments found ways to oust them. If enough local citizens decide they want marijuana dispensaries back, they’ll get them.

What about other federal shutdown efforts? Let’s look at their aggressive tactics in Colorado in 2011. The passage of Colorado’s Amendment 64 provided for the legalization of possession and cultivation of marijuana. The DEA took to sending threatening letters to dispensaries, growers and their landlords, and finally started performing raids. These actions led to a temporary decrease in medical marijuana registrants, dropping to a low point of 80,558 in November 2011. More recently however, the use of medical marijuana has been back on the rise.

“For the first time in three months, the Colorado Medical Marijuana Registry saw an increase in patients with current and active red cards. At the end of June, there were 106,817 registered medical marijuana patients in the state, 931 more than at the end of May.”

This overall increase takes into account a reduction of 2,125 registrants from May to June.

So, how is it that DEA scare tactics have not permanently reduced marijuana use in Colorado? Let’s look at the numbers. According to the DEA website, the agency’s annual budget is $2.87B. Americans for Safe Access calculate that direct raid costs are about $300,000 and investigative costs run about $12M per raid.  As of Sept, 2012, Denver had about 400 legal dispensaries, so shutting down all the dispensaries in just that city would cost more than twice the total DEA budget. With 34 percent of Americans living in states that have at least decriminalized marijuana, it’s fiscally clear that the feds can’t stop its use. They can only focus on a limited area for a limited time.

Looking from another angle, the DEA employs only 5,000 special agents. Approximately 107 million Americans are now living in states that have legalized, or at least decriminalized, marijuana. That means each special agent has a potential monitoring load of about 21,400 citizens. Good luck with that.

And now the federal government has another problem

“For the first time ever in a Gallup poll, a clear majority of the country – 58 percent – say that pot should be legalized. That figure represents an increase of 10 percentage points since last year, according to Gallup. The poll surveyed 1,028 Americans by phone Oct. 3-6.”  Assuming this trend continues, it’s only a matter of time before Congress is compelled to reverse these Nixon-era drug war laws that launched the attack on our 4th Amendment.

So nullification is working. It’s both raising awareness of unconstitutional federal behaviors and providing the recipe for stopping them. Let’s keep the pressure on our state legislators to take back our trampled state’s rights.

Susan Kennison

The 10th Amendment

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