- The American Conservative - https://www.theamericanconservative.com -

Legal Pot Makes Federalists out of Democrats

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 [1] with a bill watering down the language of the CSA.

Jacob Sullum writes [2]:

[T]he bill so far has only two Republican co-sponsors [3]: Ron Paul of Texas (naturally) and Mike Coffman of Colorado. It seems like Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), who backed [4] 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 [5] (R-Mich.), who “supports [6] 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.

Comments Disabled (Open | Close)

Comments Disabled To "Legal Pot Makes Federalists out of Democrats"

#1 Comment By Dakarian On November 29, 2012 @ 10:41 am

It’s the old split between the Moral Republicans and the Freedom-Loving Republicans, both of which really dislike each other.

You have a point: this could be a direct strike against the Fed in the name of States Rights. It’s also a direct hit against Obama, especially in favor of states that helped push him back into the White House. Even if you are against pot, it can make sense to want to take the fight to the States rather than the Fed.

Jeesh, I personally have no love for pot and wouldn’t mind it be treated like other forms of medicine, not to be even considered a recreational drug. However, I don’t believe in having Big Government do that job when it can be better handled by individual groups and, at most, State governments. It’s wasted tax money that has proven to do nothing to fix the situation.

#2 Comment By Michael Tracey On November 29, 2012 @ 10:48 am

In the recent past, Congressional Democrats, on a whole, have shown greater deference to federalism than Congressional Republicans. Generally, the GOP supports both federal laws inhibiting states’ implementation of same-sex marriage and federal marijuana prohibition laws. At least Democrats don’t claim to be ideologically-committed to the protection of “states’ rights.” Republicans, on the other hand, incessantly extol the abstract virtue of “states’ rights” while simultaneously advocating for a battery of contradictory policies.

#3 Comment By reflectionephemeral On November 29, 2012 @ 11:20 am

No elected official in either party cares about federalism. It’s an argument people use when it’s useful for their policy preferences.

From a bit ago:

In October 1998 Ashcroft gave an interview to the Southern Partisan magazine in which he lashed out at “revisionists” who make malicious attacks on America’s founders, such as charging that George Washington was a racist. (The Q & A’s introduction praises Ashcroft as a “jealous defender of national sovereignty against the New World Order.”) “Your magazine helps set the record straight,” said Ashcroft. “You’ve got a heritage of doing that, of defending Southern patriots like [Robert E.] Lee, [Stonewall] Jackson and [Jefferson] Davis. Traditionalists must do more. I’ve got to do more. We’ve all got to stand up and speak in this respect or else we’ll be taught that these people were giving their lives, subscribing their sacred fortunes and their honor to some perverted agenda.”
Setting the record straight? Is Ashcroft talking about the 1984 Southern Partisan article that argued that “Negroes, Asians, and Orientals (is Japan the exception?); Hispanics, Latins, and Eastern Europeans; have no temperament for democracy, never had, and probably never will”? Or did he mean that 1996 Southern Partisan article that cleared up that whole mix-up about slave owners not doing well by slave families? “Slave owners … did not have a practice of breaking up slave families,” the article noted. “If anything they encouraged strong slave families to further the slaves’ peace and happiness.”

A most principled defense of federalism indeed!

But then, as AG, he began fighting the case that went all the way up to the Supreme Court on federal power over states. From Wiki: “Gonzales v. Raich (previously Ashcroft v. Raich), was a decision by the United States Supreme Court ruling that under the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution, the United States Congress may criminalize the production and use of home-grown cannabis even where states approve its use for medicinal purposes. … Partnership for a Drug-Free America, several other anti-drug organizations,[2] alliance of seven congressmen including Mark Souder and Katherine Harris filed amicus brief for the side of federal government.[3]”

In the Bush era, Rick Perry loved No Child Left Behind, according to a press release still up at his website:

Gov. Rick Perry and U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige announced today that Texas’ No Child Left Behind implementation plan has received federal approval. The approval clears the way for almost $400 million in new federal funding, moving the governor’s education plan a step closer to the classroom. “Texas was a model for President Bush’s No Child Left Behind legislation, and we continue to lead the nation in innovative solutions to improve our schools,” Perry said.

Then a Democrat became president. So his principles changed, as did, apparently, the definition of words in the English language: “Look, when all the answers emanate from Washington D.C., one size fits all, whether it’s education policy or whether it’s healthcare policy, that is, on its face, socialism.”

Nobody with any political power cares about “states’ rights”. They care about states’ ability to implement policies that they like.

#4 Comment By Futura On November 29, 2012 @ 11:51 am

Who’da thunk that Democrats would be nullificationists again in 2012…over getting stoned??