As you’ve probably heard, besides helping to elect Obama, Colorado and Washington also legalized marijuana in the 2012 election — for recreational, not just medical use. Under federal law, marijuana is still somehow illegal for any kind use, medicinal or otherwise, even though a majority of Americans think it should be legalized, including Pat Robertson. And therefore, the president technically has a duty to enforce that law like all the others, despite the fact that he probably disagrees with it, since he was a giant pothead in high school — to the point where he was in a pot smoking gang that did not tolerate wasting marijuana.
So what’s the point of a law most people don’t want, and which inexplicably classifies marijuana as being as dangerous as cocaine and heroin, despite scientific consensus that it’s less dangerous than tobacco and alcohol? What’s the virtue of a law that the past three presidents have admitted to breaking, without any consequences? Would we elect presidents that used to be thieves, domestic abusers, or tax evaders? No, but we elect ones that do drugs, because intuitively, we all know it’s not a real crime to have the freedom to do what you want, if it doesn’t hurt anyone else.
The odd couple made up of libertarian representative Ron Paul (R-TX) and liberal Barney Frank (D-MA) are maybe the only ones in Congress that realize this, and last year they sponsored a bill to legalize marijuana at the federal level. It, of course, went nowhere — though Frank’s home state of Massachusetts did legalize medicinal marijuana.
Back in April of 2012, Rolling Stone magazine pointed out to Obama that he’s launched more raids on medical marijuana than Bush. Obama responded saying that his hands are tied, and the Justice Department can’t just ignore a law that Congress has put on the books. But, he has directed resources away from the medical marijuana industry, except in the cases where they are also selling to recreational users. Back then, recreational use was illegal throughout the country; but now that it’s legal in two states, what will the administration do? Before they retire in January, Ron Paul and Barney Frank decided to urge him to turn a blind eye and wrote a letter to that effect:
Dear Mr. President,
We urge you to respect the wishes of the voters of Colorado and Washington and refrain from federal prosecution of the inhabitants of those states who will be following their states’ laws with regard to the use of marijuana.
We have sponsored legislation at the federal level to remove criminal penalties for the use of marijuana because of our belief in individual freedom. We recognize that this has not yet become national policy, but we believe there are many strong reasons for your administration to allow the states of Colorado and Washington to set the policies they believe appropriate in this regard, without the federal government overriding the choices made by the voters of these states.
Respect for the rights of states to set policies on those matters that primarily affect their own residents argues for federal noninterference in this case, as does respect for the wishes of the voters – again, on matters that primarily affect those in the relevant electorate. Additionally, we believe that scarce federal resources – law enforcement, prosecutorial, judicial, and penal – should not be expended in opposition to the wishes of the voters of Colorado and Washington, given the responsibility of all federal officials to find ways to withhold unwise or unnecessary expenditures.
We believe that respecting the wishes of the electorates of Colorado and Washington and allowing responsible state authorities to carry out those wishes will provide valuable information in an important national debate. Our request does not mean any permanent waiver of the ability of the federal government to enforce national laws should there be negative consequences of these state decisions – which we do not believe are at all likely – and thus we have as a result of these two states’ decisions a chance to observe in two states the effect of the policy that we continue to believe would be wise for the country as a whole. Those who disagree with us should welcome the opportunity to put their theories to a test.
Respect for the principles of democracy; respect for the states to make decisions on matters that primarily affect the residents of those states; the chance to conserve scarce federal financial resources – these we believe are many strong reasons for you to defer to the state decisions, and we believe that even those who do not share our view that personal liberty should dictate this result should have no objection to your acting on these principles in this case.
Update, 14 Dec 2012: It looks like the president agrees, because he has finally said the feds have bigger fish to fry and “it would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that it’s legal”.
- Half Of Americans Want Marijuana Legalized
- Bill Introduced To Legalize Marijuana
- Pat Robertson Wants Marijuana Legalized
- The War On Drugs Is Officially A Failure