Today, the four California US Attorneys—at the orders of the Obama administration—are taking steps to shut down marijuana dispensaries in California. Dispensaries have been ordered closed. Federal prosecutors have sent letters to sixteen pot clubs and their landlords instructing them that their property will be seized if they don’t shut down operations.
Why the Obama administration thinks it’s important to waste resources on marijuana enforcement in California is unclear and frankly pathetic. The so-called war on drugs is an expensive boondoggle that does nothing but line the pockets of privately-run prison corporations and inflates law enforcement budgets while forcing law enforcement to turn attention away from violent crimes and crimes of fraud or corruption.
Pointing the finger at Obama is somewhat facile, of course. Neither democrats nor republicans have much respect for the notion that states have the right to write their own laws, that democracy is best practiced locally. The issue of states’ rights lost some of its glamour during the sixties when the most vocal supporters of state’s rights were rallying against civil rights for oppressed minorities. Those people (democrats in the fifties and sixties) may have even been right legally but morally repugnant—the stench of their racism and tolerance for discrimination has carried forward decades until no one can talk about states’ rights today without being accused of racism and associated with nineteenth-century slaveowners.
Marijuana laws are the poster child for the reason the United States has a Constitution. The Federal Government has an important set of roles which boil down essentially to protecting the nation from foreign invaders, protecting the citizens from the abuses of the states, and preventing or mediating potential disputes between the states.
In 1996 California’s voters passed Proposition 215 which exempted medical use from laws which ban marijuana. It was well known at the time that it would create a sticky conflict between California law and federal law, and the Supreme Court has sided with the Federal Government on this question a couple of times. But without the support of state and local law enforcement or the State’s or District Attorneys, the Feds have for the most part failed to be aggressive about marijuana enforcement in California. The Obama administration has changed that and intends to assert that states have no right to govern, that there can be no limit to Obama’s personal authority.
Sadly, most of the republicans running for office in 2012 offer no alternative. Some give lip service to the idea of states’ rights, but none other than Gary Johnson is willing to say he supports California’s democracy over the Federal Government on this question.
I don’t smoke marijuana, medically or otherwise. I haven’t since my early twenties. I have recently considered marijuana as a possible treatment for the migraines I get, but neither I nor my doctor have come to the conclusion that it’s an option I should try. But the bottom line is that this should be a conversation I have with my doctor, not a conversation I need to have with my lawyer.
If you agree that medical marijuana or outright legalization is a question best left to the states, I urge you to support Governor Johnson’s campaign for president. Let’s tell Washington that the US is the important part in USA.