Obama to California: my autocracy beats your democracy

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.

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