Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Moving toward legalization

I haven't made as much progress yet on my marijuana legalization book as I had hoped (maybe I should do that instead of blogging, but sometimes I can't help myself). Nonetheless, I still feel we're seeing incremental progress that I expect to snowball. As this Register editorial notes, the Supreme Court Monday declined to hear San Diego County's attempt to have California's law nullified on the judicial-supremacy theory that federal law (total prohibition) trumps state law. No dice. Live with it.

A lot of news stories have used that word "trump" when discussing the differences between federal law and the laws of the 13 states that permit medical use of marijuana, but it's inaccurate. The feds will sometimes "occupy" an issue and trump state laws in the area. but it hasn't happened in this case and the feds don't claim it. I was in the Supreme Court press gallery when the Oakland Cannabis Coop case was argued, and Justice Ginsberg specifically asked the government lawyer if the feds were claiming federal supremacy. She said no, that this was simply one of the many instances under federalism when state law and federal law are different. The Supreme decision makes it clear. Local law enforcement's job is to enforce state law, not federal law, so that excuse is simply gone now.

The editorial also notes that the new "drug czar" (gad, what an offensive term in either a republic or a democracy), Gil Kerlikowske, has decided to abandon the term "war on drugs." Nice symbolic gesture, but only warlike actions can try to enforce prohibition. Time to change the laws.

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