States Rights: The State of Legal Marijuana

States Rights: The State of Legal Marijuana

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

The United States of America is a union that consists of 50 vast and different states. The State of the Union speech is the President of the United States of America giving his observations and report on how the union of the 50 states is functioning. (and if you are really counting you must take into consideration Washington DC and some territories that America presides over such as Guam). The states that the union contain, in certain situations and areas, govern themselves; setting the tone and climate for administration of some or all of public resources, including labour, and wealth. America is currently in the midst of a libertarian movement that increases in intensity as states seek to wrest power to enforce public policy in certain areas and situations in lieu of the federal government.

The past 10 years have seen several clashes between the different state governments and Washington DC. The State of Arizona is currently engaged in a notable and very heated struggle with The Obama Administration about the enforcement of security at the Arizona – Mexico border. Texas has also expressed its own needs and interests in dictating policy of the security of their own Mexican border. Violence is on the rise on the borders of these states where the vast desert acts a a portal for the smuggling of illegal drugs, illegal immigration and outright human trafficking.

The battleground of states rights vs federal government has not seen a brighter stage than the issue of same sex marriage. The debate is personal and intense and crosses many different areas of contention. The issue was brought to the forefront of the American consciousness by George W. Bush as he sought to turn the tide of the 2004 United States presidential election against the Democratic party nominee John Kerry. Bush stated that marriage should be defined as the union of a man and a woman and that same sex marriages should not be recognized in The United States. The ensuing years have seen some states legalize same sex marriage, many others vote their states same sex marriage down and countless debates and court cases going back and forth in this battlefield in the war for political power between the states and Washington DC.

The next potential area for conflict in this never ending union dance with federal government will be legal marijuana in America. The growing consensus is that it is just a matter of time before one of the states in the union, with the smart money betting on California, Colorado or Michigan, will end their prohibition of marijuana and legalize its recreational possession and use. Medical Marijuana is already out of the closet and never to return. City and state governments that have legalized medical marijuana are already profiting and allocating funds received in the taxes generated and this revenue is not going to be eliminated now that the states have had a taste of this new budget windfall.

California attempted to legalize recreational use in November 2010 with Proposition 19. Voted down by a 54-46% margin in a midterm election, the pieces were not completely in place for victory. The issue will come back with a vengeance in 2012 and early observations are that the new proposition will be written with a more inclusive attitude toward the state’s legal marijuana culture and include the concerns of growers, defense lawyers and dispensaries. The 2012 election will be a presidential election and thus will include a bigger turnout of the younger voters of the population, the very core of the populace that most voting registration drives aim at and coincidentally which happen to be a huge block of the yes to recreational marijuana base.
The federal government seems to be in a quandary if one of these states actually does break away from the Just Say No federal stance on all recreational drugs except tobacco and alcohol. The push came to shove last October when it looked like Proposition 19 had a chance to pass in California, forcing Obama Administration Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske to issue the following statement on recreational legal marijuana:

“Legalization is being sold as being a cure to ending violence in Mexico, as a cure to state budget problems, as a cure to health problems. The American public should be skeptical of anyone selling one solution as a cure for every single problem. Legalized, regulated drugs are not a panacea–pharmaceutical drugs in this country are tightly regulated and government controlled, yet we know they cause untold damage to those who abuse them.
To test the idea of legalizing and taxing marijuana, we only need to look at already legal drugs–alcohol and tobacco. We know that the taxes collected on these substances pale in comparison to the social and health care costs related to their widespread use.”

Clearly the federal government is not on board with legal marijuana in California sponsoring the Super Bowl Half Time Show in 2020. How does a state’s citizens respond to this statement when their population votes on an initiative that could help their economy to recover from the most serious economic crisis in their state’s history? Does the federal government have a right to tell a private citizen that even though they have voted on a principle in majority that they still do not have the freedom to exercise this right as afforded to them through popular vote?

Thomas Jefferson, was quoted as saying “The government which governs least, governs best”. The Jefferson authored Declaration of Independence, the very document that the federal government is founded on, declares that we all have “certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The federal government will seek to deny citizens rights they have afforded to themselves through their state’s popular vote, clinging to aging and archaic rhetoric. The stance and posturing does not govern least and it certainly does not govern best; denying their citizens the life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that it professes its very existence for.

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