If California Favors Pot Legalization, the DOJ Should Sue

The administration sued Arizona because of its immigration law; why not California for legalizing pot?

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Things are tough in California. An unrestrained state legislature has spent so irresponsibly that the state is continuously begging the rest of us to bail it out with federal tax dollars. Its credit rating literally makes it a riskier bet than Kazakhstan. It has placed so many burdensome regulations on businesses in the state that they are fleeing as quickly as they can to shutter their doors. Jobs are going with them, of course. Meanwhile, California is also leading the nation in legalized pot shops and stoned citizens.

Yeah, things are tough all over in California all right. And considering their latest stunt, maybe the state’s legislators are taking their cash-strapped cue from the ‘80s flick of the same name--Tough All Over starring Cheech and Chong, those two dope-hazed but lovable caricatures of bong tokers everywhere.

Why not, California’s leading political lights ask, induce a lot more people get high as a way to pay off the state debt?

In November, Californians will vote on the Regulate, Control, and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010, also known as Proposition 19. If passed, California will be the first state in the union to legalize marijuana outright.

[Read opeds arguing for and against legalization of drugs.]

California has already legalized what they call, uh, “medical” marijuana--which, unsurprisingly, finds need from “patients” with just about every ailment under the sun--from agoraphobia to asthma. (Yes, asthma. Who knew ingesting smoke into your lungs could be so good for respiratory disease?) In other words, find any wacko to write you a prescription for just about anything and you are on your groovy way. (Never mind that the medical community has stated there is no scientific evidence to support the argument that smoking pot has any medicinal value.)

So Prop. 19 is merely the latest step in the utterly predictable march of the legalization lobby. Get in the door with bogus but sympathetic arguments about the medicinal value of marijuana, then push for outright legalization.

All of this, of course, runs counter to federal law, which makes marijuana an illegal substance. And this has a lot of folks asking: If this administration is willing to sue the state of Arizona because it has passed a law on immigration that is allegedly at odds with federal law, why is not applying the same standard to illicit drugs?

[Read more about immigration reform.]

Topping the list of folks asking this question is a bipartisan group of former heads of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration--dating all the way back to the agency’s creation in 1973. They raised these questions in an August 24 letter sent directly to the attorney general. This is particularly newsworthy because all of these men previously reported directly to an attorney general themselves.

“Such a state law will violate the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution and will be void,” states the former administrators. “Indeed, the [Controlled Substances Act] itself clearly states that federal law preempts state law when there is a positive conflict with the established federal law.”

The DEA--and a host of other organizations worried about the impact of marijuana on American kids and society--stepped it up a notch yesterday by issuing a public challenge to Attorney General Eric Holder during a news conference at the National Press Club.

“We note that the Department of Justice acted quickly to assert the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause in the recent suit to declare null and void certain provisions of an immigration bill passed by the state of Arizona,” they noted in the letter to Holder, which was publicly released during the news conference. “We would expect the Department of Justice to act just as swiftly and for the same reason … to prevent Proposition 19 from becoming law.”

I wouldn’t hold my breath. Particularly given DOJ’s high-profile announcement last year asserting that it would no longer pursue criminal cases against medical marijuana shops. That was the first time a non-enforcement policy was announced with regard to conflicting federal and state drug policies; it’s also the first time that the DOJ has told the DEA to stop doing its job. Not exactly a morale booster.

Old Cheech and Chong are ready to make their comeback. God bless their drug-addled hearts. (I’m referring in this case to Cheech and Chong, not the folks advising Holder.)

The whole legal foundation of Supremacy Clause--pushed so aggressively by this administration when it suits its political perspective but ignored when it doesn’t--seems to be going up in smoke.

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