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Decentralizing Drug Policy:

More encouraging news from the San Francisco Chronicle:

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is sending strong signals that President Obama - who as a candidate said states should be allowed to make their own rules on medical marijuana - will end raids on pot dispensaries in California.

Asked at a Washington news conference Wednesday about Drug Enforcement Administration raids in California since Obama took office last month, Holder said the administration has changed its policy.

"What the president said during the campaign, you'll be surprised to know, will be consistent with what we'll be doing here in law enforcement," he said. "What he said during the campaign is now American policy." . . .

After the federal Drug Enforcement Agency raided a marijuana dispensary at South Lake Tahoe on Jan. 22, two days after Obama's inauguration, and four others in the Los Angeles area on Feb. 2, White House spokesman Nick Schapiro responded to advocacy groups' protests by noting that Obama had not yet appointed his drug policy team.

"The president believes that federal resources should not be used to circumvent state laws" and expects his appointees to follow that policy, Schapiro said.

Richard Nieporent (mail):
"The president believes that federal resources should not be used to circumvent state laws" and expects his appointees to follow that policy, Schapiro said

So Obama is a supporter of States Rights?
3.1.2009 12:36pm
juris_imprudent (mail):
That's interesting; an AG (and President) that think policy trumps the Constitution. I guess I'm not surprised, even though that was supposed to change with this Administration.

The problem as I see it is that the Administration is still technically bound to enforce the federal laws as they stand = and state law must conform to that. The appropriate course of action to match policy and law is to change the federal law. Of course they won't repeal the whole lot of federal anti-drug laws, so they could just de-schedule marijuana. Will they do that, or just create a legal limbo?
3.1.2009 12:41pm
Fub:
juris_imprudent wrote at 3.1.2009 12:41pm:
The problem as I see it is that the Administration is still technically bound to enforce the federal laws as they stand = and state law must conform to that.
If a local DA can use prosecutorial discretion as a reason for not prosecuting some violations of various laws, why can't the POTUS tell the USAG to exercise prosecutorial discretion the way POTUS wants him to?
3.1.2009 1:10pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
I'll be more impressed if Obama is consistent about this, and allows the proposed Montana law to stand. But that would require a consistent federalism--as opposed to being sympathetic to potheads.
3.1.2009 1:13pm
Visitor Again:
The problem as I see it is that the Administration is still technically bound to enforce the federal laws as they stand = and state law must conform to that. The appropriate course of action to match policy and law is to change the federal law. Of course they won't repeal the whole lot of federal anti-drug laws, so they could just de-schedule marijuana. Will they do that, or just create a legal limbo?


The federal executive branch always has had discretion as to how to spend scarce federal law enforcement resources. There are more serious federal law enforcement problems to confront than medical marijuana use. Law enforcement priorities are usually set by way of policy rather than by changes in the law.
3.1.2009 1:13pm
therut (mail):
Nancy Pelosi said the former administration(her favorite words to end every thought) obviously did not enforce the curremt Federal gun laws (I have no idea what she means and she probably does not either). Maybe she is a hinting where Obama is going to spend some more money ( For PR purposes with her base) We will leave the pot heads alone but those gun nuts is another matter..
3.1.2009 1:31pm
Fidelity (mail) (www):
This is certainly a great move for America, but it's not nearly enough. I look at the proposal in California, the three ex-presidents asking for prohibition to end, and this news, as "encouraging", but when will we see the end to no-knock warrants? Or the extension of medical marijuana to psychological disorders? Or a reasonable police force?

This isn't a step towards the end of the War On Drugs, it's just a step in the reasonable direction for State's Rights. The War On Drugs is the root of many problems in this country, and this country needs to have a dialog about it. A "coward" is afraid to talk about the real failed policy.
3.1.2009 1:48pm
Joeblow:
A victory for state's rights my behind. If a state legalized "assault weapons" after Obama's ban, what would he do?
3.1.2009 2:05pm
Jonathan Rubinstein (mail) (www):
I wholly endorse Fidelity. There are many myths about drug use and the law in this country, but the continuation of this mindless policy is a serious block to recovery of our wellbeing as a people. Some will say that it is a step to far for Obama to go, to take on this issue as well. What are they talking about? Is he going to be just another in the line of clowns and villians we have had since Eisenhower? Yes, nuclear disarmament and managing the fiscal crisis is more important, but in the context of health reform, discussing drug use, abuse, and law enforcement is supremely important.
3.1.2009 2:10pm
Festooned with Christmas tree ornaments:
Fidelity wrote:

the three ex-presidents asking for prohibition to end


That can't be right, can it? Otherwise I agree with most of your post.
3.1.2009 2:43pm
TerrencePhilip:
"What the president said during the campaign, you'll be surprised to know, will be consistent with what we'll be doing here in law enforcement," he said. "What he said during the campaign is now American policy."

On a personal note, this sardonic side is something I've long liked about Holder.
3.1.2009 2:50pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):
So, he won't enforce the Voting Rights Act? Or the Civil Rights Acts? or the ADA? Or the law banning protests in front of abortion clinics? Or etc etc

Or just this one federallaw?
3.1.2009 3:02pm
ChrisTS (mail):
Perhaps what Shapiro should have said is "The president believes that federal resources should not be used to circumvent state laws not supported by the majority of the people, costly and damaging to enforce, implicated in police corruption, and directed at self-regarding conduct which, absent legal intrusion, poses no harm to those other than the agent."

That might help to distinguish this case from other states' rights issues, such as assault weapons ownership. Personally, I think the 'pot heads' should be left alone. I have serious concerns about the 'gun nuts,' on the other hand.

Let us ask ourselves, 'What would Mill do?'
3.1.2009 3:09pm
Fidelity (mail) (www):
That can't be right, can it?

I should have been more clear, Latin-American ex-presidents in the WSJ.


"We also propose the careful evaluation, from a public-health standpoint, of the possibility of decriminalizing the possession of cannabis for personal use. Cannabis is by far the most widely used drug in Latin America, and we acknowledge that its consumption has an adverse impact on health. But the available empirical evidence shows that the hazards caused by cannabis are similar to the harm caused by alcohol or tobacco."


Don't know, Joeblow, what would the feds do if California legalized pot?
3.1.2009 4:18pm
Pete Guither (mail) (www):
Festooned: I'm pretty sure Fidelity is referring to the three ex-Presidents in Latin America (Cardoso, Gaviria, and Zedillo) who called for new approaches to replace the drug war.

To others: The Holder statement is not an endorsement of states' rights, but merely a note that when it comes to medical marijuana in states where medical marijuana is legal under state law, the federal government has more important things to do than interfere.

Finally: It amazes me the people who still believe that administrations are required to somehow fully enforce every law on the books in every instance. Even if that was physically possible, it would be stupid. There are thousands of ridiculous old laws on the books that are not enforced (either by federal "cops" or local cops). The worst that would happen in this instance is that Congress could force Holder or the DEA Head to come and explain why the Federal government isn't taking resources used to go after drug cartels and instead arrest sick people following state law.
3.1.2009 4:18pm
Dissenting Justice (mail) (www):
What about non-medical suppliers/users? Prosecutors will do anything to win a case - and if charging someone with possession of marijuana can help them search, seize, and do other investigatory or negotiation-related activity, they will.
3.1.2009 6:47pm
Randy R. (mail):
Clayton: :"But that would require a consistent federalism--as opposed to being sympathetic to potheads."

You are referring to Michael Phelps?

Yes, he's very dangerous to America....
3.2.2009 12:01am
gerbilsbite:
Watching Holder get around Wickard v. Filburn should be interesting.

I think we really all want to see an answer to the same question: what does Randy Barnett think about this?
3.2.2009 1:24am
whit:

So, he won't enforce the Voting Rights Act? Or the Civil Rights Acts? or the ADA? Or the law banning protests in front of abortion clinics? Or etc etc

Or just this one federallaw?



you do realize there is a difference between not enforcing a law by not prosecuting a technical violator of that law in the interests of justice, and not enforcing a law that protects others civil rights.

if joe blow doesn't get prosecuted for using medical MJ nobody's rights are violated (well, joe blow probably does cocaine not MJ but you get my point)

if otoh the AG decided not to enforce the voting rights act, people rights are violated.

huge difference.


The federal executive branch always has had discretion as to how to spend scarce federal law enforcement resources. There are more serious federal law enforcement problems to confront than medical marijuana use. Law enforcement priorities are usually set by way of policy rather than by changes in the law.


correct. there is discretion.

consider what seattle did...

Seattle, Washington: Initiative 75, passed by the Seattle, WA voters in September of 2003, requires that "the Seattle Police Department and City Attorney's Office shall make the investigation, arrest and prosecution of marijuana offenses, when the marijuana was intended for adult personal use, the city's lowest law enforcement priority." The ordinance subsequently adopted by the Seattle City Council to implement the new policy included provisions for the president of the city council to appoint an eleven-member Marijuana Policy Review Panel to assess and report on the effects of this ordinance.

Today, following more than three years of meetings and reviews, the Marijuana Policy Review Panel issued their final report, including the following conclusions and findings:
3.2.2009 6:08am
rick.felt:
you do realize there is a difference between not enforcing a law by not prosecuting a technical violator of that law in the interests of justice, and not enforcing a law that protects others civil rights.

Of course there is. But is it too much to ask that White House spokesmen speak precisely, and that when they announce a general principle, it be applied... generally?

Schapiro didn't say ""The president believes that federal resources should not be used to circumvent state laws, except those that protect others' civil rights." He said "The president believes that federal resources should not be used to circumvent state laws."

Precision is helpful, because occasionally one's man's civil right is another man's scissors-in-the-back-of-the-skull and brain-vacuuming.
3.2.2009 8:45am
Oren:

Watching Holder get around Wickard v. Filburn should be interesting.


He doesn't have to get around it. Just because the Federal government has some power doesn't not require the AG to use it.
3.2.2009 10:02am
Bob from Ohio (mail):

you do realize there is a difference between not enforcing a law by not prosecuting a technical violator of that law in the interests of justice, and not enforcing a law that protects others civil rights.


Maybe I should have picked a different series of laws, there are thousands of federal laws after all.

The larger point is that the reason adanced by the administration is BS. They don't like pot laws so won't enforce them as much. I disagree but fine, its their government. That is totally different than the stated reason, which they certainly do not share in any other area.

BTW, what is the difference between a "technical violator" and a plain old "violator"?
3.2.2009 10:06am
BobbleheadJed (mail):
Finally: It amazes me the people who still believe that administrations are required to somehow fully enforce every law on the books in every instance. Even if that was physically possible, it would be stupid. There are thousands of ridiculous old laws on the books that are not enforced (either by federal "cops" or local cops). The worst that would happen in this instance is that Congress could force Holder or the DEA Head to come and explain why the Federal government isn't taking resources used to go after drug cartels and instead arrest sick people following state law.


I hear ya Pete, in this day and age it really is too much to ask that the government follow the massive amount of rules they write so that us people know what is going on. Arbitrary government abuse of power as long as it is favoring a particular group is how we do things now in this country.

But seriously, Obama can only ignore federal marijuana laws with the consent of Congress. Congress and SCOTUS could force the Obama administration to enforce those laws and even impeach Obama if they wanted to for not following federal law. We all know that won't happen, but if our Constitution and our laws and our lawyers were worth more than used toilet paper that is how it should work. Assuming we had already passed an amendment to the Constitution to prohibit marijuana in the first place. Unfortunately for the Obama administration, they aren't claiming that federal marijuana laws are unconstitutional they are just happy to be able to get away with the same abuses of power that Bush and his predecessors have gotten away with.

This is awesome, BUT the laws still need to be CHANGEd.
3.2.2009 11:30am
Bob Goodman (mail) (www):
Congress and SCOTUS could force the Obama administration to enforce those laws

How could either body do that? If Congress had knowledge of a violation of such laws, what could they do about it that wouldn't be a bill of attainder? How could SCOTUS act on its own initiative? The only body I could see acting in such a case would be a grand jury, and good luck trying to get a federal court to honor whatever grand jury you can organize for the purpose.

and even impeach Obama if they wanted to for not following federal law.

Sure, they could, but they're under no obligation to, and I don't see why they'd want to. I'm sure Congress in this and many other fields would love to have their cake and eat it too -- having certain activities be illegal but no enforcement of those laws. That way everybody's happy.
3.2.2009 12:35pm
Sigivald (mail):
"The president believes that federal resources should not be used to circumvent state laws"

I'll believe he means it, fully, when he lets states undermine the National Firearms Act (at least in intra-state holdings of firearms).
3.2.2009 1:03pm
whit:

He said "The president believes that federal resources should not be used to circumvent state laws."


he didn't need to say that because state laws that violate rights established federally are UNLAWFUL.

i am definitely not an obama fan. but he is a constitutional scholar and not an idiot.

if a state passes a law, for example, instituting slavery, that law is INVALID.
3.2.2009 2:46pm
whit:

The larger point is that the reason adanced by the administration is BS. They don't like pot laws so won't enforce them as much. I disagree but fine, its their government. That is totally different than the stated reason, which they certainly do not share in any other area.


of course it's BS. it's called politics.

obama of course has no respect for state's rights.

but regardless of his REASON, he is still expanding states rights and vastly improving federal policy by doing so.
3.2.2009 2:48pm
Piano_JAM (mail):
That might help to distinguish this case from other states' rights issues, such as assault weapons ownership. Personally, I think the 'pot heads' should be left alone. I have serious concerns about the 'gun nuts,' on the other hand.

Just wondering the definition of 'Gun Nut'. I own an old shot gun my late stepdad gave me and a new Glock 24c, purchased 2 weeks after the Zero was elected. Do I qualify for this label???
3.2.2009 3:42pm
ray_g:
'What would Mill do?'


Mill would leave both the pot heads and the gun nuts alone.

BTW I hate the term "gun nut" because it doesn't really have a real meaning, it is just a knee jerk insult aimed towards anyone who opposes the gun-control crowd's agenda.
3.2.2009 4:00pm
whit:

BTW, I hate the term "gun nut" because it doesn't really have a real meaning, it is just a knee jerk insult aimed towards anyone who opposes the gun-control crowd's agenda.



i absolutely agree. often, when i am advocating for gun rights, such as right to carry on campuses (legal in my state. illegal in many others), people reflexively use the "gun nut" moniker.

i am most definitely not a gun nut. i really don't CARE about guns. i own only one, and for years i owned none (i had a duty weapon i took home, but owned no guns).

i don't read gun mags. i just don't really care about them. i care about rights.

so, when a lefty calls me (reflexively) a "gun nut", i say that i am a gun, abortion, speech nut. because i care about the freedom to engage in all those rights.

but it is just nonsense to assume that because somebody avidly supports gun rights, that that person is a "gun nut".

if you support abortion rights, are you an abortion nut?

seriously. it's just demeaning.
3.2.2009 11:31pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

That might help to distinguish this case from other states' rights issues, such as assault weapons ownership. Personally, I think the 'pot heads' should be left alone. I have serious concerns about the 'gun nuts,' on the other hand.
And that's the difference. Like most conservatives, I was appalled by the Raich decision. The pretense that anything that could move in interstate commerce is therefore subject to federal law means that federalism is dead.
3.3.2009 11:19am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
Randy R. writes:

Clayton: :"But that would require a consistent federalism--as opposed to being sympathetic to potheads."

You are referring to Michael Phelps?

Yes, he's very dangerous to America....
Like most conservatives, I was disgusted with the Raich decision. I regret having voted for the medical marijuana initiative that led to the Raich case, but having passed the law, the federal government's rationalization for prosecution was absurd. Only a liberal could like that rationalization (because it gives liberals excuses to override state law on just about everything). And only a liberal could like the rationalization, while decrying that it was used in this particular case.
3.3.2009 11:22am
ChrisTS (mail):
Uh oh.

To all, I used 'gun nuts' in scare quotes precisely to flag it as judgmental [at the least] and as a misuse of persuasive language - just as I found C. Cramer's use of the phrase 'pot heads' to be.

If we are all going to raise our Don't Tread on Me flags over 'gun nuts,' how about over 'pot heads'?

Only a liberal could like that rationalization (because it gives liberals excuses to override state law on just about everything). And only a liberal could like the rationalization, while decrying that it was used in this particular case.


I don't know if that was directed at me or Randy R. I'm still trying to parse it. However, to the extent that it implies that 'liberals' are congenitally hypocritical (yes?), it seems over the top. Hypocrisy is not only in the eye of the beholder, but also is a nonpartisan vice.

Maybe I'll just wander back to the buffet thread; people seem much cheerier discussing that.
3.3.2009 8:41pm
ChrisTS (mail):
ray_g:
'What would Mill do?' Mill would leave both the pot heads and the gun nuts alone.


I'm not so sure. A great man and a wonderful thinker, but not always consistent from a contemporary libertarian perpsective. Not always a consistent anything, really. But, isn't that part of his appeal?

And, again, in case it gets lost in the thread: I do not approve of 'gun nut' anymore than I approve of 'pot head' as terms useful in a rational discussion of .... anything.
3.3.2009 8:47pm
sassr:
Jawohl!
3.4.2009 2:26pm

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