Voters in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington State will vote on proposals next month to nullify unconstitutional federal statutes by legalizing marijuana for recreational use, setting up a potential showdown between the Obama administration and state governments that could increase interest in the U.S. Constitution’s Tenth Amendment. While the fate of Oregon’s measure remains uncertain, polls suggest Amendment 64 in Colorado and Initiative 502 in Washington State may well pass.
By allowing legal cannabis for medical purposes, at least 17 states, including the three voting on full legalization in November, have already nullified federal drug statutes purporting to criminalize marijuana under all circumstances. More than half-a-dozen other states are currently considering similar measures, too, often with the backing of law enforcement groups and doctors.
However, the U.S. government has so far largely refused to respect states’ sovereignty on the issue. President Obama, despite his campaign promises to not waste Justice Department resources persecuting medical marijuana patients and their suppliers, is waging a fierce crackdown on the medical marijuana industry that in recent years has surpassed even the George W. Bush administration’s efforts.
The controversy over state drug laws conflicting with federal statutes, however, has opened up a veritable can of worms. Amid an ongoing effort by state governments to rein in the unconstitutional usurpations of power by Washington, D.C. — everything from ObamaCare and Agenda 21 to the indefinite detention provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) have become targets of nullification campaigns — recent efforts to legalize marijuana could open a new front.
In 2008, even the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government to stop its anti-medical marijuana campaign in California, correctly citing constitutional restrictions on federal power. The Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States, or to the people." The ACLU is still involved in the fight.
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