Recommendation: Direct the Justice Department To Recalibrate its Posture Towards Marijuana Law Enforcement
During the first Obama term, the Justice Department has taken an aggressive posture toward marijuana law enforcement against medical cannabis dispensaries in California and elsewhere. Now, however, in the same elections that re-elected the President, the recreational use of marijuana was legalized by the popular vote of the citizens of two states. At this point, there is a bipartisan justification for the Justice Department easing the enforcement posture it maintained during the first administration.
Now this is a state’s rights issue as much as it is a social issue. Liberals are more marijuana-friendly. But conservatives and libertarians are proponents of states’ rights, minimal regulation, and individual liberty. The enforcement by the federal government of its own drug policy over state laws that have been recently enacted to legalize marijuana can be regarded as an encroachment of states rights. Approached rightly, enforcement policy can be realigned in a way that obtains bipartisan support.
A federal policy is needed that respects and promotes states’ initiatives on drug legalization, for which there is a huge constituency. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws permitting the medical use of marijuana. Two states, Washington and Nevada, have legalized marijuana. Upon passage of its legalization referendum, Washington state vacated all unprocessed standing charges of marijuana related- arrests. Because marijuana is illegal at the federal level, there continue to be instances of federal law enforcement overriding state law some of these states.
Recommendation: That the administration confer with the Attorney General to influence the Justice Department to adopt a formal position directing US Attorneys nationwide to refrain from enforcing federal marijuana laws where they differ from state laws.