New Federal Medical Marijuana Policy Fraught with Peril
On Monday Deputy Attorney General David Ogden issued a memo to federal prosecutors in 14 states regarding the Obama Administration's position on medical marijuana. by Kenn Jacobine
Friday, October 23, 2009
The memo declared that prosecutors "should not focus federal resources in your states on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana." Ogden's directions went on to give federal agents the authority to go after those whose marijuana distribution actions go beyond what is allowed by the various state laws. In essence, the memo gave prosecutors wide discretion in determining which cases to pursue and which to ignore based on their interpretation if any state laws are being broken. On the surface, this seems like a compassionate gesture towards those suffering pain from maladies like cancer, glaucoma, and spasticity. However, upon closer inspection, the Administration simply didn't go nearly far enough and its position is fraught with peril.
First of all, how can there be a law that the government doesn't enforce. I realize there are a lot of old outdated laws on the books that governments do not enforce, but federal drug laws are a big deal. Now, don't get me wrong I would like to see all substance laws repealed on the grounds that individuals have an absolute right to do to their bodies what they choose as long as it doesn't violate the rights of others. Of course, being stoned, driving a car, and hurting another through those actions should still be illegal. But, if you want to smoke a joint in the privacy of your home it is your natural right to do so.
The problem with the Administration's new position on medical marijuana is that instead of saying go ahead and break the law and we will look the other way the Justice Department should be petitioning Congress to repeal the law outright. What law will he decide not to enforce next immigration laws? Oops, I forgot he doesn't already. After all, isn't the President nullifying an act of Congress because he is refusing to enforce its law? This is no different than when states nullify an act of Congress or when juries release defendants because they believe the law the accused is being tried for is unjust or unconstitutional. In both circumstances Uncle Sam gets snooty and cries fowl. Why is the President any different? Perhaps Congress should sue him at the Supreme Court to require him to enforce the law.
It is also concerning that the Administration is giving wide discretion to prosecutors in pursuing cases. Naturally, some prosecutors are more gung-ho than others when it comes to prosecuting these types of cases. Thus, equal protection of the law could be violated simply because there is no concrete legal standard involved only the judgment of individual prosecutors. And besides where is it ordained that federal agents have any role in enforcing state laws? This is clearly a violation of our institutionalized federal system. Next thing you know, FBI agents will be given the jurisdiction to issue traffic tickets on the nation's interstate highway system. No, federal agents enforcing state laws will lead to a further erosion of state's rights and bring us that much closer to federal hegemony over all matters.
Of course, drug laws are not within the realm of the federal government per Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution anyway. The states retain the right to regulate drugs under the 10th Amendment. There are state pharmaceutical laws and licensure in all 50 states. You would think that somebody in the political establishment could come up with a common sense compromise that protects states' rights yet maintains regulation over medical pot. Perhaps federal law banning its use could be eliminated and control of the issue totally transferred to the individual states. The states could then treat pot like they treat codeine and Prozac - as a behind the counter drug dispensed by pharmacies like CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens. After all, like the aforementioned drugs pot does have significant medicinal value. This approach would ensure that worthy patients receive the medication their doctors prescribe, states would retain their right to regulating drugs, and federal prosecutors could focus their attention where it belongs on cases like mail fraud and illegal immigration.
At the end of the day there will be no peace on our streets until Washington ends the so called "War on Drugs" completely. In all fairness to the Administration, with its recent medical marijuana stand it has gone further than any previous administration in at least attempting to curb one abuse of that conflict. Let's hope this experiment goes well and as a result Mr. Ogden issues another memo declaring the federal war on drugs over.
Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a summer residence in Haywood County, North Carolina. For a podcast of this post go to: The View from Abroad.
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Um, can you say overboard? Person who's article i just wasted 45 seconds reading, The 'memo' as you put it, is, in my opinion, a placeholder if you will, for the administration to give a little leeway to those in pain, until they actually have a chance to focus on changing the law. They obviously have a lot on their plate right now. With the current economy, do you really think they should be focusing on legalizing marijuana? Seriously think about that. The President runs an entire country for cryin' out loud, give the guy a break. You probably have a hard time taking care of your own life, let alone the lives of 306 million other people. Think about the mess this country was in before the current administration got into office, then think about how long it would take to clean that mess up. Use your head, for something other than a place to put your hat.
Did you wake up on the wrong side of the bed this morning?¬† The President has chosen to do cap and trade, healthcare reform, bailing out banks, and speeches in front of the U.N of his own choice.¬† So don't say he has a lot on his plate like he is some martyr. Besides he is a Nobel Prize winner - shouldn't we expect more.¬†
As to your quote,¬† "You probably have a hard time taking care of your own life, let alone the lives of 306 million other people."¬† I have no problem taking care of my own life.¬† I am divested from Wall Street, making a foreign currency at my job, and I own a little gold.¬† The fool is the one who thinks that Obama and his ilk are taking care of them.¬† He is taking care of you alright - come back and comment on my blog after the big crash happens.¬† Then we will see who you think deserves a break.
This is an excellent article as far as it goes. Why not just uphold the laws that are in place already. Like, say, ,,, the nineth and tenth amendment. Seems to me, Obama needs more time, to vacation and travel. If we would repeal any law that violates the ninth and tenth amendment, he might have more time to vacationa and he could spend less time trying to force the federal government on us all. Bending laws that exist is no way to run a republic.It borders on dictatorship. We need fewer laws, not memos or suggestions to define current laws.¬† The following¬† link is for Lee.¬† However, It will take more than forty five seconds to read. http://www.theadvocates.org/library/gentle-hand.html
Kenn you are exactly right that society will have no peace until the war on drugs is over. That means that the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 is repealed, and all inmates convicted under it are released with apology to their good names. Prohibition is the name of the plague on society, not drugs. Nothing, short of liberty to garden and share nature's bounty, will cure society's plague. Don't reform prohibition, just repeal it.
LoL Kenn, you crack me up. Everyone in the country expects this man to do everything, 'Right Now!'. He's one man, and most people don't stop to think that he doesn't have alot of control over laws, Congress does. If you have a problem with a law, blame them, not the president, because he personally, probably can't do shit about it. That's the great thing about being a democracy, one person, doesn't have all the power ;). By the way, the fact that you have a little coin, and are making these bold statements, doesn't impress anyone, it just makes you seem -arrogant-.
The date of the large scale Ohio State study proving that endocannabinoids are necessary for the brain to cure and prevent the damage of daily life was published the day before the Bush Bank bailout. Think of all the lawsuits when people realize that drug testing is causing Alzhiemer's in their employees! Is there any wonder that the Insurance company watch dogs went south with the money before the storm they caused by requiring testing of employees blew back in thier faces? In fact it was probably the widescale eradication of wild hemp in the states starting as early as 1914 that contributed to the Dust Bowl of the "Great" Depression more than "poor farming techinques"! Finding out just how far back the media realized that hemp helped people protect themselves from the inconsistancies of propaganda is the real question. Benjamin Franklin referred to himself as poor printer, and his mill produced hemp paper for Poor Richard's Almanac know for predicting the weather far in advance. It's part of my American Heritage and with over 400 references to making burnt offerings to the Lord, it's part of my freedom of Religion.
i would think it is a "suggestion". i don't think any memo can instruct employees to break existing laws?
legalizing the bud would liberate many folks. something like one third of the legal system is tied up in pot cases. but it would also be political suicide. the existing "legal" drug industries, moral minority and all the brainwashed folks who believe pot leads to meth would add to obama's many troubles. i think attacking the problem locally is the way to go.