Marijuana Prohibition Loses Ground to Modern Federalism

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As a constitutional republic, the US system of government is designed on the principles of federalism. In our federalist system the federal government is one of enumerated powers and those powers not explicitly granted to the federal government are reserved to the states. The framers of the Constitution established this system through the Tenth Amendment, which reads:

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”

As James Madison put it in Federalist 45:

“The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.”

While the powers of the federal government have been broadly interpreted and rapidly expanding over the last eighty plus years, diluting the very notion of federalism on which the US system is designed, there is one area of public policy where federalism is not only being exercised, but thriving– and that is marijuana policy.

The federal prohibition of marijuana was enacted when the Controlled Substances Act passed Congress in 1970. Since then, in keeping with the concerns of the lives and liberties of its people, seventeen states and Washington DC legalized medical marijuana, while fifteen states passed decriminalization measures. And despite the fact that the Supreme Court held in the 2005 case of Gonzalez v. Raich that growing marijuana solely for personal and medicinal consumption in compliance with state law is subject to regulation under the Controlled Substances Act, seven states passed medical marijuana laws since that decision, and Massachusetts and Montana have medical cannabis initiatives on the ballot this fall.

Undeterred by the federal government’s continuous ramping up of the war on medical marijuana, state efforts to push the envelope and even further liberalize marijuana laws continue beyond medical cannabis. Colorado, Washington State, and Oregon are all thumbing their noses at the federal government by placing marijuana legalization initiatives before voters this November. Even smaller efforts like Ohio’s recently-passed legislation decriminalizing most marijuana paraphernalia shows that states are continuing to chart their own path on marijuana policy.

By exercising their powers in accord with the federalist principles on which our country was founded, many states have stood up for the long forgotten idea that ours is a federal government of enumerated powers. More importantly though, those states that chose to liberalize marijuana laws by passing medical and decriminalization measures and the like, laid the foundation that will ultimately bring the federal prohibition of marijuana crashing down.

Drug warriors and critics of liberalizing marijuana laws attempted to whip up a frenzy about what would happen should marijuana be made more readily available for medical use. The most common criticisms from anti-legalization and medical marijuana opponents is that marijuana is as harmful and addictive if not more so than alcohol and tobacco, and making marijuana more accessible will thereby lead to widespread use and addiction. Critics further contend a whole hoard of other claims, including: marijuana causes severe health problems such as lung cancer and respiratory problems, that one joint places more tar in an individual’s lungs than a cigarette, it sends the wrong message to kids who will see the availability of marijuana as a sign that is okay to use and will do so at alarming rates, and incidents of driving under the influence will significantly increase.

In reality, these fears have been found to be completely unwarranted. Contrary to the aforementioned claims, breakthrough research shows marijuana is by far one of the least addictive drugs one can use and is undoubtedly less addictive (if it is at all) than alcohol and tobacco. Further, anyone definitively stating that marijuana is in fact addictive is being disingenuous at best. Nor has there ever been a documented case of someone getting lung cancer or dying from simply smoking marijuana.

But the greatest contribution of those states embracing federalism in passing medical marijuana laws is that the proper conditions were created to empirically gauge the baseless and arbitrary contentions of these critics about usage and public safety. Time and time again research continually shows there is essentially no causal connection between the passage of medical marijuana laws on the measures of reported marijuana use– for both the general population and teenagers.

Indeed, some research even indicates, “reported adolescent marijuana use may actually decrease” after the passage of medical marijuana laws. Moreover, studies also show incidents of driving under the influence go down in medical cannabis states, conceivably because people are more apt to eschew alcohol in favor of marijuana. These reductions make sense, as marijuana is typically consumed in homes and private spaces, as well as the fact that “people who are high tend to be aware that they are impaired and compensate, while alcohol tends to increase recklessness and create false confidence.”

Thanks to federalism, the empirical research gathered shows the core arguments put forward by critics of liberalized marijuana laws– namely widespread use and abuse by young people and public safety concerns on the road– are without merit.

Those states deciding to disregard federal marijuana prohibition and respect the wishes of its people (especially independent voters, whose support for medical marijuana outpaces the other two voting blocks) by passing medical and decriminalization measures succeeded in essentially making marijuana banal. As new states seek to liberalize their own marijuana policies, and others look to continue the process, every time a medical marijuana, decriminalization, or legalization initiative passes it is just another domino falling in the face of what seems to be at this point, an inevitability.

When we look back years from now, when marijuana is finally legalized on a national level, we’ll thank those states who adhered to the principles of the Constitution and federalism and took the plunge first– providing the rest of the country and world with valuable empirical data demonstrating that marijuana can be regulated and controlled like any other commodity without disastrous consequences.

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  1. fpIp1sb 696590 141420You will locate some fascinating points in time in this post but I do not know if I see all of them center to heart. There
  2. 1n2IwanrXw 658245 903961I consider something genuinely particular in this internet site. 138450
  3. jilliangalloway American taxpayers are being forced to pay $40 Billion a year for a prohibition that causes 10,000 brutal murders & 800,000 needless arrests each year, but which doesn't even stop CHILDREN getting marijuana. After seventy-five years of prohibition, it's obvious that the federal marijuana prohibition causes FAR more harm than good and must END! Drug Dealers Don't Card, Supermarkets Do.
  4. Kevin I am holding my nose and voting for Obama after I learned that Melvin Sembler is working for Romney: "But the real icon of drug policy in Romney’s campaign, deeply involved to this day, is Melvin Sembler, a Florida strip-mall magnate who was a national fundraising chair for Romney in 2008 and is again a Florida State Co-Chair for Romney’s finance committee. Mel Sembler’s name is most likely to strike fear into the hearts of anyone involved in teen drug rehabs. Sembler and his wife, Betty, founded a chain of such institutions under the name Straight, Inc., which at its peak in the ‘80s had 12 clinics in nine states and a track record of extreme abuse. In one of many stories from Straight that have been exposed, a teenage girl testified to being compelled into the program after being caught with an airline bottle of liquor given to her by a friend, and then beaten, raped, locked in a janitor’s closet in pants soiled by urine, feces, and menstrual blood.. Newton, who held a PhD in public administration from an unaccredited institution, was chosen by the Semblers to be their national clinical director. He has had to pay out over $12 million in damages to his victims, who he has thrown against walls, held against their will, kidnapped, restrained in leg irons, forced into servitude, and otherwise abused." Source: http://www.thefix.com/content/romney-sembler-drug-advisor-teen-rehab-abuse8515
  5. user4117 Mrs. Clinton said it best, as quoted, when asked ..'if MJ nwould ever be legaized..', "No' there is too much money in it". If a first Lady and Sec.of State can see the real reason for Prohibition, why cannot the average American see the same paradigm? Because there's too much money in it(Prohibition).
  6. FlyingTooLow Law enforcement needs to re-direct its focus on crimes... to those that are REAL crimes. I spent 5 years in Federal Prison for a marijuana offense. While I was there, I watched armed bank robbers come and go in as little as 20 months. After 3 years 'behind the wall,' I pointed this out to the parole board. Their response: “You must understand, yours was a very serious offense.” How do you respond to that mentality? I laughed about the parole panel's comment for 2 more years (as I still sat in prison), then wrote my book: Shoulda Robbed a Bank No, it is not a treatise on disproportionate sentences, but a look at what the 'marijuana culture' is really about. People pursuing happiness in their own way. Harming no one...nor their property. That’s my contribution to helping point out just how ludicrous our pot laws truly are. I hope you check it out.
  7. Billy Dillard about says it all.
  8. user4117 'What were they thinking?' One might ask, why is Alcohol + Tobacco allowed with 500K attribitale deaths per year. Or why peanuts with a few dozen deaths per year? Or why Cancer is treated but not cured... What were they thinking??? People do not die from MJ use... and MJ has been used as a medicine for 3000 years.
  9. user4117 Might add, Hearst was beat out in a bid for a 100,000 acre tract of wooded land. This really had a lot to do with his participation in the demonization of the Mexican workforce in America.... as the party that won the bid for that land was of Mexican origins/Zapata.
  10. user4117 Part of the 'Mexican' situation was somewhat before 1937. As the Depression proceeded, like this one, many individual interests were involved that had some political and thereby commercial concerns. Most specificly, employment was the real root, marijuana was the excuse, and demonization(MJ and Mexicans) was the tool.
31 comments
fpIp1sb
fpIp1sb

696590 141420You will locate some fascinating points in time in this post but I do not know if I see all of them center to heart. There

1n2IwanrXw
1n2IwanrXw

658245 903961I consider something genuinely particular in this internet site. 138450

jilliangalloway
jilliangalloway

American taxpayers are being forced to pay $40 Billion a year for a prohibition that causes 10,000 brutal murders & 800,000 needless arrests each year, but which doesn't even stop CHILDREN getting marijuana.

After seventy-five years of prohibition, it's obvious that the federal marijuana prohibition causes FAR more harm than good and must END! Drug Dealers Don't Card, Supermarkets Do.

Kevin
Kevin

I am holding my nose and voting for Obama after I learned that Melvin Sembler is working for Romney:

"But the real icon of drug policy in Romney’s campaign, deeply involved to this day, is Melvin Sembler, a Florida strip-mall magnate who was a national fundraising chair for Romney in 2008 and is again a Florida State Co-Chair for Romney’s finance committee.

Mel Sembler’s name is most likely to strike fear into the hearts of anyone involved in teen drug rehabs. Sembler and his wife, Betty, founded a chain of such institutions under the name Straight, Inc., which at its peak in the ‘80s had 12 clinics in nine states and a track record of extreme abuse.

In one of many stories from Straight that have been exposed, a teenage girl testified to being compelled into the program after being caught with an airline bottle of liquor given to her by a friend, and then beaten, raped, locked in a janitor’s closet in pants soiled by urine, feces, and menstrual blood..

Newton, who held a PhD in public administration from an unaccredited institution, was chosen by the Semblers to be their national clinical director. He has had to pay out over $12 million in damages to his victims, who he has thrown against walls, held against their will, kidnapped, restrained in leg irons, forced into servitude, and otherwise abused."

Source: http://www.thefix.com/content/romney-sembler-drug-advisor-teen-rehab-abuse8515

user4117
user4117

Mrs. Clinton said it best, as quoted, when asked ..'if MJ nwould ever be legaized..',

"No' there is too much money in it". If a first Lady and Sec.of State can see the real reason for Prohibition, why cannot the average American see the same paradigm?

Because there's too much money in it(Prohibition).

FlyingTooLow
FlyingTooLow

Law enforcement needs to re-direct its focus on crimes... to those that are REAL crimes.

I spent 5 years in Federal Prison for a marijuana offense. While I was there, I watched armed bank robbers come and go in as little as 20 months.

After 3 years 'behind the wall,' I pointed this out to the parole board. Their response: “You must understand, yours was a very serious offense.”

How do you respond to that mentality?

I laughed about the parole panel's comment for 2 more years (as I still sat in prison), then wrote my book:

Shoulda Robbed a Bank

No, it is not a treatise on disproportionate sentences, but a look at what the 'marijuana culture' is really about.

People pursuing happiness in their own way. Harming no one...nor their property.

That’s my contribution to helping point out just how ludicrous our pot laws truly are.

I hope you check it out.

Stacy Alexander Dill
Stacy Alexander Dill

All drugs should be state. The HHS and Center for Disease Control, related Homeland Security and DEA and FDA should have the mission of homeland defense. Epidemics/ drug safety/ biological warfare, etc. Rest should be left to states. Of course, being an historian and Constitutional scholar these days, is a lot like being Cassandra.

Steven Cooper
Steven Cooper

10th Amendment...plain and simple...all power not designated to the federal governemnt is reserved for the states

Sam Roach
Sam Roach

@Mathias P Mathe. Thanks. Looks like another one of those cases where you follow the dollar bill, figure out who stands to make a killing and you can figure out what's going on. Have a good night my friend.

Matthias P. Mathe
Matthias P. Mathe

@sam roach... W.R. Hearst. Turns out hemp makes a a damned cheap paper and thats a good thing if you didn't just buy half the nations lumber on which to print your gaggle of news papers. Hemp was lobbied against by hearst and to make his capitalist argument stick hemp/marijuana had to be classified as an abusable drug. His capitalist friendly fat cat friends over in DC happened to love campaign donations so...the rest is a big steaming pile of history! (or something like that)

Sam Roach
Sam Roach

Let me ask this question, and I am not trying to be a smart *ss but I honestly don't know. Why was it deemed to be illegal in the first place because obviously a previous generation saw fit to do so. The other question that possibly could be asked is what would the effect be if it were legal as is tobacco etc? Let's say for arguments sake that we were to legalize marajuana, would our great grandchildren for example look at our decision to do so and ask, "what were they thinking?" I'm just asking?

Jason Noh
Jason Noh

State. I do believe the DEA needs to change the classification to make this nonsense stop, however.

Erik M. Durnall
Erik M. Durnall

Doesn't matter… if it were legal everyone would just grow their own, then they couldn't make ANY money, you don't really think they'd be ok with that do you?

David W. Carey
David W. Carey

I would say neither. Government shouldn't have any authority to tell you what you can and can't put in your body, only to enforce against public intoxication and such. But you are responsible for yourself and if a business doesn't want you working for them if your a pothead, they should be allowed to discriminate.

Ryan Taylor
Ryan Taylor

The main problem is that marijuana is still considered a class 1 narcotic by the DEA until that nonsense changes the states will never have a chance to exercise their rights. It's a classic catch 22.

John Weavers
John Weavers

state issue. The framers did not give drug policy powers to the federal government.

kevin
kevin

New York state stopped enforcing alcohol prohibition ten years before the feds did. History repeats itself.

user4117
user4117

Might add, Hearst was beat out in a bid for a 100,000 acre tract of wooded land. This really had a lot to do with his participation in the demonization of the Mexican workforce in America.... as the party that won the bid for that land was of Mexican origins/Zapata.

user4117
user4117

'What were they thinking?' One might ask, why is Alcohol + Tobacco allowed with 500K attribitale deaths per year.

Or why peanuts with a few dozen deaths per year?

Or why Cancer is treated but not cured...

What were they thinking??? People do not die from MJ use... and MJ has been used as a medicine for 3000 years.

Brad R. Schlesinger
Brad R. Schlesinger

They certainly did! And you're right, history does repeat itself, we are seeing the same kind of black market violence and crime with drug prohibition now that existed with alcohol prohibition then.