ATLANTA, Ga. (March 24, 2016) – Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal needs a lesson on the 10th Amendment after releasing a statement last week saying that any new laws allowing marijuana for medical use must come from the federal level, not the state.
“I’m ready to have somebody tell me that those who support anything in this arena have put the same kind of pressure on the members of Congress that they put on the members of the Legislature and the Governor’s Office,” Gov. Deal said in a statement indicating his reticence toward increasing access to medical cannabis for sick patients within the state of Georgia. He also suggested for medical marijuana advocates in Georgia to focus on Washington D.C. to “actually solve the problem rather than us have to make partial fixes.”
This bizarre rationale is not only contrary to common sense but also the Bill of Rights. When constructing the Constitution, the founding fathers clearly intended for the states to make independent decisions on pressing policy matters. James Madison in Federalist #46 advised four primary tactics for individuals and states to effectively push back against federal overreach, including a “refusal to cooperate with officers of the Union.”
The Supreme Court concurs with the Father of the Constitution. The highest court has consistently affirmed a well-established legal principle known as the anti-commandeering doctrine. This legal principle affirms that the federal government cannot commandeer state resources or require state personnel to implement any federal act or enforce any federal law.
Legislatures and governors across the country have rejected Gov. Deal’s federal supremacist mindset time after time. A growing number of states are simply ignoring federal prohibition, and sending a strong signal to the feds that their failed war on drugs is not worth their effort.
Colorado, Washington state and Alaska have all legalized both recreational and medical marijuana, and 23 states now allow cannabis for medical use. With nearly half the country legalizing marijuana, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition any more. The feds need state cooperation to fight the “drug war,” and that has rapidly evaporated in the last few years with state legalization, practically nullifying the ban.
FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By erasing the state laws, the Connecticut legislature would essentially sweep away the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests. Because the feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance, measures enacted at the state level can have a huge impact.
“The lesson here is pretty straight forward. When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations or mandates down our throats,” Tenth Amendment Center founder and executive director Michael Boldin said.
And that is a lesson out-of-touch public officials like Gov. Deal need to realize. They are needlessly denying sick patients access to proven medical treatment in an ill-conceived attempt to prop up unconstitutional federal power.
Image by Jamelle Bouie, Flickr