Americans may be enamored with Social Security, Medicare, and sundry other unconstitutional federal policies, but according to a new USA Today/Gallup poll, a sizable majority of them stands with the Constitution when it comes to marijuana laws.
The survey, conducted November 26-29, reveals that 64 percent of Americans believe that the federal government should not “take steps to enforce federal anti-marijuana laws” in states that have legalized recreational marijuana consumption, while just 34 percent think the feds ought to crack down on pot use in those states. Particularly noteworthy is the fact that 43 percent of those opposed to legalization nevertheless agreed that states should be allowed to set their own marijuana policies.
Constitutionally speaking, there is no question that marijuana policy ought to be set by state and local governments, not Washington. Nothing in the Constitution grants the federal government the power to prohibit the use of marijuana or any other drug. Therefore, as the 10th Amendment makes explicit, that power is “reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.” After all, if the Constitution, as originally ratified, permitted the federal government to prohibit the use of particular substances, there would have been no need to enact the 18th Amendment before Congress could prohibit alcohol.
The conflict between federal and state marijuana laws has come to the fore in the wake of successful ballot initiatives in Washington and Colorado to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana use. Despite the clear message sent by voters in those two states — more Coloradans voted for weed legalization than for President Barack Obama’s reelection, though Obama still won the state — the Obama administration is considering ways to thwart the people’s will. According to the New York Times, the administration may prosecute “low-level marijuana users” in hopes of getting a court to rule “that federal law trumps the state one,” sue the states that passed the initiatives, or even “cut off federal grants to the states” pending repeal of the laws.
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