Leave Marijuana To The States


Out of respect for federalism and democracy, Congress should end the federal prohibition of marijuana and leave the issue to the states.

Half the states have chosen to legalize at least some marijuana use. Ohio is in the process of joining those that allow the drug to be used as medicine. In some states, it’s legal – under state law – for adults to use pot for their own enjoyment. And states have made various laws governing the production and sale of marijuana.

But, currently, even if you are in full compliance with state law, that does not fully immunize you from federal prosecution. The federal government has refused to take marijuana off Schedule I, thus keeping it subject to harsh federal restrictions. Last week, it reiterated that position.

Also last week, a federal appeals court decreed that a rule in the federal budget protects you from criminal prosecution if you are in full compliance with the medical-marijuana laws in certain states. But those who violate the law now might be prosecuted later if that budget rule changes, because the activities are still illegal. In case you were wondering, Ohio is not on the list of states covered by the budget rule.

This is absurd and unequal justice.

Whatever laws we need to govern marijuana ought to be made by the states. The underlying purpose of marijuana laws is to prevent or limit the use of it. Fundamentally, this is a question of how people should live and, perhaps, what sort of communities we should have. If using marijuana causes any harms at all that entitle government to intervene, they are primarily local harms.

Federal respect for state decisions is especially important where there is heavy democratic involvement at the state level, as in the case of marijuana laws. Some states have changed their marijuana laws by referendum – by the direct decision of the sovereign people. And even in states that have not, such as Ohio, the issue has attracted great public debate and organization. Indeed, marijuana is a high-profile issue on which many citizens nationwide place importance. Thus, the decisions of state legislatures are more likely than usual to reflect the views of state citizens, because citizens may have influenced their legislators or even chosen legislators in part because of their views on this issue.

Because this ought to be a state question anyway, and because it is on the state level that the will of the people is being felt, Congress should get federal law out of the way.

That does not mean that marijuana would become legal nationwide. Congress should leave state laws that prohibit or restrict marijuana alone too.

Acting DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg said the refusal does not portend a new federal crackdown on marijuana, which has benefited from some measure of deliberate neglect under the Obama Administration. But future administrations may be more hostile to marijuana. And even now, the federal drug laws interfere with the ability of businesses that trade in it to operate as normal, lawful businesses: For example, the Ohio Supreme Court Board of Professional Conduct last week advised lawyers that they may not negotiate leases, or do similar transactional work that lawyers normally do, for marijuana businesses that violate federal law.

The will of the people should not be overcome by federal bureaucrats’ assessment of science. Even if the bureaucrats are right on the science and right under existing federal law, the scientific case should be made to the people. When the people themselves are considering an issue, their will should prevail unless there is a clear constitutional principle that restrains it.

Congress should repeal the federal prohibition on marijuana and leave the matter to the states.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Leave Marijuana To The States
Author: Staff
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Photo Credit: Lindsey Bartlett
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