The Justice Department and Marijuana Law Enforcement by Jim Turner and Terry Patten

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.

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2 thoughts on “The Justice Department and Marijuana Law Enforcement by Jim Turner and Terry Patten

  1. While I agree with the thrust of this, IMO the matter is technically a mite more complex than I see discussed here. The wording in the Constitution is something like whatever powers are not expressly given the Federal government are “reserved to the States or to the people.” Therefore I presume the Feds have weasled their way into some justification for their enforcement of Fed law on this.

    Any argument for a change would therefore have to contain more than just a simple cry for states’ rights, which is all I see above. It would have to refute the validity of the Fed claim that they DO have the “right” to enforce these laws. Your “can be regarded as an encroachment of states’ rights” needs to be unpacked significantly as it is the crux of the matter. An argument is needed, not a simple assertion. I don’t see any argument, above.

    I hope someone can research the basis on which the Feds claim any jurisdiction in this matter, and refute that. Not that it would be decisive, plenty of other such violations of jurisdiction are ongoingly in place….This is merely one of many.

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