During a speech at the National Press Club on Wednesday, April 17, the White House drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, announced that the Obama administration would adopt a zero tolerance policy when it comes to enforcing federal drug laws.
At the luncheon, Kerlikowske said that the U.S. Department of Justice will retain jurisdiction over the enforcement of existing federal statutes criminalizing the use of controlled substances, including marijuana. Any state laws to the contrary, he said, are of no legal effect.
“No state, no executive can nullify a statute that has been passed by Congress,” the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy told the National Press Club audience.
“Let’s be clear,” he continued, “law enforcement officers take an oath of office to uphold federal law and they are going to continue to pursue drug traffickers and drug dealers.”
Simply put, nullification is the recognition of the right of states to consider null, void, and of no legal effect any act of the federal government that exceeds the “few and defined” powers granted to it by the states in the Constitution.
The president’s hard line stance sets up a continuing conflict with a number of states where voters and lawmakers have approved the legalization of marijuana for personal use.
Colorado and Washington became the first two states to nullify unconstitutional federal drug statutes by legalizing marijuana for recreational use, with voters backing Amendment 64 and Initiative 502 — but rejecting a similar proposal in Oregon. The two victories for legalization advocates, however, have set the stage for a potential showdown with the Obama administration of historic importance.
Kerlikowske’s statements on Wednesday demonstrate that the showdown is approaching.
Particularly as other states are considering similar decriminalization of the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
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