Cannabis is an illegal drug. It was made illegal by the Federal Controlled Substances Act. However the citizens of California saw fit to create a loophole for medical marijuana through Proposition 215.
That would be all fine and good if the citizens of California actually had the constitutional authority to do that. During the Bush administration, the Drug Enforcement Agency, well aware of the farce of California’s referendum, raided several facilities that were packaging and distributing medical marijuana.
A court battle was imminent, and indeed the U.S. Supreme Court got involved in 2005. The court’s ruling should have been obvious from the beginning to anyone even remotely familiar with the U.S. Constitution: the federal law superceded the state law because that’s what the Supremacy Clause is designed to do. Here it is:
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. United States Constitution, Article VI, paragraph 2
So the DEA (and, by extension the Bush administration) won that battle. Yet the new Obama administration’s response to this is simply to tell the DEA to look the other way when it comes to these medical marijuana facilities. Attorney General Eric Holder could get a key to the City of Berkeley very soon.
But I’m not so sure I agree with this approach.
From my tone you might guess that I am anti-marijuana. You would guess wrong. I am in favor of legalizing marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes even though I do not smoke and would not smoke even if it were legal.
But just like the federal law supercedes the state law, my love for the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law supercedes my personal position on marijuana. Through a constitutionally valid process, elected federal lawmakers made a bad law in the Federal Controlled Substances Act. But, for better or for worse, that is the law. And isn’t it the attorney general’s job to enforce the laws that are on the books?
If marijuana does indeed have legitimate medical benefits, then by all means allow researchers to make a case to the Food and Drug Administration.
Instead of trying to sidestep it through a loophole or under the guise of states’ rights, I say the Obama administration should be more courageous. It’s time to take on this issue head-on and revise the Federal Controlled Substances Act so that marijuana is made legal. If people would stop seeing marijuana as a pharmaceutical and start seeing it the same way they see alcohol then there might be a stronger argument for legalization.
In the meantime, you should know that the “Mr. Greenbud” candy bar in your pocket is still illegal no matter what people in California say.