Congratulations to President Barack Obama for decisively winning reelection.
The Republican War Against Women and their right to reproductive freedom was an insult to women and the men who love and care about them. Let this be a warning to the Republicans: Abandon all hope if you continue to consort with the right wing fringe that cannot abide the idea of an unshackled female free to make her own decisions without male approval.
And now let’s take a look at Washington and Colorado where voters passed laws legalizing and taxing the sale of marijuana. I fully support those voter decisions, but I want to go several steps farther to once and for all end the failed War on Drugs and legalize and tax the sale of all drugs.
The results in Washington and Colorado raise an important legal issue; namely, what will happen given the federal prohibition on the sale and distribution of marijuana?
We have seen the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) close down medical marijuana dispensaries in California ignoring state law that legalized the possession and use of marijuana for medical purposes. Can we expect the same reaction by the DEA in Washington and Colorado?
Regrettably, the answer appears to be “Yes.” The federal government and the individual state governments are separate sovereigns under out constitutional form of government. Due to the Supremacy Clause, the federal government’s sovereign authority over matters concerning drugs reigns supreme over and preempts state sovereign authority. Thus, state laws that conflict with federal laws concerning drugs must yield to federal law.
The Supremacy Clause is set forth in Article VI of the United States Constitution:
This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.
As the Chief Executive of the United States who no longer has to worry about running for reelection in the future, President Obama has the authority to order the DEA without fear of political reprisal to cease and desist from enforcing federal laws regarding marijuana.
Our nation faces many problems today and one of the biggest is the failed War on Drugs. We have the highest rate of incarceration per 100,000 people in the world (730) and more than half of the people incarcerated today are serving time for nonviolent drug offenses, particularly offenses involving the possession and distribution of marijuana.
Laws criminalizing the possession or distribution of marijuana and other drugs have not reduced drug use. Instead, they have created a lucrative black market, armed gangs engaging in narco-terrorism and vast criminal financial empires. Colombia, Mexico and Honduras are awash in blood from warfare between rival drug gangs and the federal police endangering the health and safety of the people and destabilizing their governments. Forty years of unremitting failure is enough.
President Obama’s reelection presents him with an opportunity to end the drug war and replace it with a first step toward a sane and humanistic policy as Portugal has done.
The drug policy of Portugal was put in place in 2000, to be legally effective from July 2001. The new law maintained the status of illegality for using or possessing any drug for personal use without authorization. However, the offense was changed from a criminal one, with prison a possible punishment, to an administrative one if the amount possessed was no more than ten days’ supply of that substance.
The present piecemeal state-by-state approach keeps turning up the heat on the federal government to end the war and replace it with a sane policy, and now it’s time for President Obama to take a strong stand for legalization.