With Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ move this week to enforce federal marijuana laws, reactions among both the Left and Libertarian camps have devolved into hysterics. This is not only overblown, but it may be the push that is needed to end the prohibition of marijuana.
Where I Stand
I want to put out my opinion on this so that people can understand my position on this policy. I believe that people have the right to take whatever drugs they want. People own their body, and therefore should not be prohibited from choosing what to do with it. I stand in favor of decriminalization because I believe that it pushes the government out of this issue more than legalization which comes with burdensome regulation and taxation.
I do believe that under the American system, it is up to states to regulate drugs- not the federal government. Murder is a crime handled by the states, so why can’t the states decide what to do with weed? Therefore, states should choose what is and is not a crime if it occurs in their borders between two of their citizens. The federal government should not be telling states how to govern the morality of its citizens (and the states shouldn’t either) since it does not have the power or authority to do so.
What Sessions Did
While people’s reactions would lead most to believe that Sessions changed the penalty of marijuana possession to the death penalty, the reality of this policy is fairly tame. Simply put, Sessions said that as the man in charge of executing federal law and prosecuting it, that he would prosecute this part of federal law like all others. His policy is that marijuana cases should be prosecuted with the same standards of discretion as any other crime.
This is what is to be expected of Sessions as he has repeatedly said that he is against marijuana legalization and that he enforces the law to the letter. If Congress made marijuana legal, he would immediately stop arresting people for weed because his principle and his duty as Attorney General is to enforce the law as it is written.
Whether or not you agree with the law is not really the issue here. The issue is whether or not the Attorney General should enforce the law and prosecute criminals who violate the law. What would you advocate for if the question were to prosecute bankers who defraud people across the country or people dumping toxic chemicals into the Mississippi River?
The answer for any sane person is that you would want those people to pay damages and have justice served. Obviously weed is a victimless crime, and therefore a different scenario (and in my opinion not an action worthy of being a crime). However, if there is a law in place that carries penalties for certain behaviors, preserving the law as a whole requires enforcing bad laws.
This swing is the exact evidence necessary to prove this. Instead of legalizing weed, Obama simply said he wouldn’t prosecute violators of the law. When the political pendulum swung the other way, it was easy for a bureaucrat to choose to enforce the law. It is Congress’ job to pass laws and the Executive’s job to enforce them. When the Executive decides to not enforce a law, they basically nullify it. No one would be happy if Jeff Sessions said he’s going to stop enforcing laws that prohibit banking fraud, because it is a just law that was enacted Constitutionally.
The way to fix this is to change minds, which marijuana activists have. By making the legalization or decriminalization of marijuana a priority of many Americans and palatable to the rest American people, it would be politically expedient for them to pass a law giving back the liberty to do with one’s own body as they please.
Another solution would be that one of these states that has legal marijuana writes their law in a way that challenges the federal law in order to take them to court and allow the Supreme Court to decide which one has the authority to regulate this. Right now it would favor the side of letting people have weed or leaving it up to the states based on who is on the Supreme Court now. An individual or business in a state where it is legal could also sue the federal government saying that they were following state law and take it to the Supreme Court.
The issue is that the Supreme Court can’t just strike down laws until a case comes before them. They do not have the power or authority to simply nullify laws passed by Congress and signed by the president. What they can do is apply laws as they are written, and the Constitution favors the states’ right to govern their citizens on this, which would likely overturn the federal law.
There are two routes to the decriminalization of marijuana: Congress or the Supreme Court. The Executive branch picking and choosing laws will not suffice because there is a system that America follows to create and execute laws, and undermining that system could undermine the entire institution of justice.
What the goal should be is to fight for the rights of states to choose how to govern. This would allow states to create laws that allow for as much or little marijuana use and distribution in their state as the people want. It would be the same as guns: if you don’t like your state’s laws, vote to change them or move. Each state would be an experiment in liberty, as they were designed to be.
Finally, the point must be made that in order to preserve a just law, it must be enacted Constitutionally so that it cannot be lawfully subverted or ignored by the Executive Branch. This would enshrine it into law and preserve it through the ebbs and flows of government and public opinion.
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