COMMENTARY | This week, the editorial board of the Christian Science Monitor stated that it hopes U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will make it clear that federal law trumps state legalization of marijuana. The board asserts that it is a good idea to enforce federal laws against marijuana in Colorado and Washington, where voters recently approved the legalization of recreational pot use. The board stated that the Justice Department should sue the states of Colorado and Washington. I disagree.
It isn’t that I don’t understand the stance of those opposed to recreational pot use. I do. And the concerns over drug addiction and possible problems with international agreements barring drug legalization deserve consideration. I also understand the desire of the Justice Department to ensure that marijuana dispensaries don’t start popping up in close proximity to public schools. But since when is the federal government suing individual states and trampling over the will of voters in those states a good crack at compromise? What is that going to do besides muddy the line of what is the federal government’s responsibility and what is overreach by the federal government?
The editorial board states that eight former Drug Enforcement Administration chiefs have advised that a federal crackdown is needed “to send a message” to other states who wish to legalize pot. I personally find it a bit overbearing to talk about “crackdowns” and lawsuits in the place of freewill and state’s rights. I think that the federal government should perhaps take a step back, look at the reasons why it has marijuana classified as a controlled substance. Look at whether — in light of public opinion — it is time to revisit that classification.
In reality, my opinion has always been that state-level changes in regards to marijuana should have only happened after reclassification at the federal level. The notion of legalizing something in the state that is illegal in the United States has never seemed to be a simple endeavor to me. But it didn’t happen that way. In spite of requests to bend or reconsider the classification, the federal government held to its stance that marijuana is a controlled substance. Now — as with issues such as immigration and gay marriage, which the federal government also refused to clarify or update — the states have begun taking matters of marijuana legalization into their own hands.
It isn’t a time for lawsuits. It isn’t a time for punishing states for something the voters believe should be lawful and for “cracking down” on something that those voters have, in fact, made lawful at a local level. It’s a time to look at the issue of marijuana, of public opinion and international agreements and what is in the best interest of the public in which the people have spoken in disagreement with the federal law. It’s a time for a compromise and a careful crafting of new agreements instead of burned bridges and crackdowns.