After Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana via ballot initiative this month,  the Department of Justice warned about the potential “constitutional showdown” between the states and federal enforcement authorities. The easiest way to avert such a showdown  would be for the DEA to use its discretionary authority under the Controlled Substances Act to simply reschedule pot. They’re not going to do that.

In the face of such a conflict you’d think, drug war politics aside, that the GOP would stand on the side of state rights and fewer regulations. They might show their limited government bona fides, and their sincerity in reaching out to young libertarian-leaning voters, and maybe even advance some sort of bill to ameliorate the constitutional problem. Congresswoman Diana DeGette, a Democrat from Colorado, has beat them to the punch with a bill watering down the language of the CSA.

Jacob Sullum writes:

[T]he bill so far has only two Republican co-sponsors: Ron Paul of Texas (naturally) and Mike Coffman of Colorado. It seems like Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), who backed a more ambitious Paul-sponsored bill aimed at repealing federal marijuana prohibition, should not be shy about adding his name to this list as well. How about Justin Amash (R-Mich.), who “supports federalism on all legislation not specifically authorized in the Constitution”? Any others? Now is put-up-or-shut-up time for avowed federalists in the House. It is certainly strange, if not embarrassing, to see that Democrats are more enthusiastic about a bill with “states’ rights” in the title than Republicans are. Behold the power of pot.

The merits of legalization aside–which are considerable, even from a conservative standpoint–eventual change is beginning to seem inevitable. Majorities now favor it, and two states have just taken the plunge. From a purely cynical standpoint, it behooves the GOP to get ahead of the curve on this, or other issues for which there’s a strong conservative case, such as copyright reform. Can you imagine the outrage among the liberal base of the Democratic Party if Harry Reid were the one to block these bills? If a bill respecting federalism for drug laws passed the House but died in the Senate because of the Democratic Party’s fondness for the policemen’s union? It seems they’d prefer to let the Democrats carry the banner of federalism.