The recent legislation passed in Colorado and Washington that legalized the recreational use of marijuana has reinvigorated a debate raging in our country for years.
While this is a great victory for NORML, a leading lobbyist group on reforming marijuana laws, and others in favor of the legalization of cannabis, it is also a greater victory for states’ rights in general.
When the country was first founded, the greatest debate concerned the delegation of power between the national government and the state government, with federalists and anti-federalists battling it out for which political philosophy would guide our nation. These days, however, it seems that politicians debate how the federal government should divide our paychecks, and the outside groups that defend states’ rights are labeled right-wing extremists concerned only with impinging on the rights of women and the homosexual community.
The importance of this victory cannot be overstated, as the amendment that repealed marijuana prohibition passed with a majority of 55 percent of the vote by two states. The amendment in each respective state allows adults to legally possess up to one ounce of pot for recreational use without fear of prosecution.
Hopefully, this sensible and moderate legislation is a sign of things to come, but the federal government is not giving in without a fight.
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) cracked down on medical marijuana dispensaries across the nation, and they have even made some arrests. One dispensary owner in Montana is facing a minimum of 80 years in prison for their store that was legally set up in accordance with state law. To give that prison sentence some context, Jerry Sandusky is facing a minimum of 30 years for the atrocities he committed at Penn State. To arrest and charge somebody for an offense that was supposed to be legal is egregious.
The federal government has basically sent the message that our voice in government on a state level is null and void. That being said, issues such as gay marriage and gambling are determined on a state level, but do not have a national organization calling the shots. This makes the legalization of marijuana more of an issue a government program not wanting to relinquish power or funding. After all, if we lived in a nation in which all drugs were legal, then we wouldn’t need a DEA.
As I learned in my philosophy class, every good argument has an appeal for action, and this viewpoint is no different.
At first, I wanted to ask the federal government to give the ability to regulate controlled substances back to all 50 states, but the notion of surrendering that power is unimaginable to the feds.
Then, I thought I would ask for more legislation to be voted on directly by the people in elections. Constitutional amendments can’t lie or break your heart like politicians can, but voting on bills ourselves puts congress out of a job, and I can imagine they wouldn’t allow that.
So, I realized the only tried and true way to get the laws in our country changed is to break them. While I don’t advocate illegal activities, I do recognize that, historically, this is how we, as a nation, have fixed the laws that prevent us from doing activities that do not infringe on other citizens natural rights.
After all, Americans’ blatant disregard for the law is how prohibition got repealed.