By Sid Salter/Syndicated columnist
The Picayune Item
STARKVILLE, Miss. —
It became legal for adults to produce and consume marijuana in the state of Washington recently. Except that in the eyes of the federal government, nothing has changed.
On Nov. 6, voters in Washington approved a ballot initiative that legalized the production, distribution and use of marijuana by adults over age 21. Prior to passage of the initiative, those activities were crimes that carried a potential felony conviction and prison sentence. Now it will be possible to enter a licensed marijuana shop, buy marijuana that is inspected and approved by the state, and light up.
That is unless you happen to be nabbed by a federal agent who works for the U.S. Justice Department, not a local prosecutor in, say, King County, Wash.
Federal law makes it a crime to produce, distribute or possess marijuana, and the Justice Department issued a statement saying, “Neither states nor the executive branch can nullify a statute passed by Congress.” So, the federal marijuana statute will be enforced in Washington state. The same is true for other states that have legalized medical marijuana, and it will be true in Colorado, where voters approved a similar marijuana initiative.
How can that be? Has not President Barack Obama’s administration said it will not enforce the federal Defense of Marriage Act and will not deport illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children?
Perhaps you have the quaint notion that we still function under the constitutional principle of federalism, in which the federal government reserves most powers for the states. But you would be wrong, as this example shows. Congress has steadily encroached on states’ rights. There’s no better example than in the case of using federal prosecutors and judges to go after purely local crimes. ...
Members of Congress talk a good game about reducing the size of the federal government and respecting states’ rights. They should make good on that talk by repealing criminal laws that duplicate laws at the local level unless there are interstate or national implications. A good place to begin is when local drug laws are repealed by a vote of the people of a state.