I believe that election day 2012 will go down in U.S. history as an extremely important event. No, not because in its national apathy the citizens re-elected a crony capitalist puppet as President. Rather, because it was the day when two states overwhelmingly rejected the Federal Prohibition on marijuana. Of course, I am referring to Amendment 64 in Colorado and Initiative 502 in Washington State, which legalize pot for recreational use.
Upon its passage, I wrote a piece titled: Colorado Legalizes Marijuana: Your Move Eric Holder. I knew right away that the Federales would not be pleased by this law. I also knew that, contrary to popular myth, Obama isn’t “liberal” in any sense of the word and in fact he has demonstrated highly authoritarian characteristics throughout his Presidency and an uncanny willingness to lie repeatedly. So I assumed his reaction would be aggressive, because for him this issue isn’t about marijuana, but rather Federal (his own) power versus the power of his “subjects.”
We learn from the New York Times that the administration is indeed looking to get tough:
WASHINGTON — Senior White House and Justice Department officials are considering plans for legal action against Colorado and Washington that could undermine voter-approved initiatives to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in those states, according to several people familiar with the deliberations.
Some law enforcement officials, alarmed at the prospect that marijuana users in both states could get used to flouting federal law openly, are said to be pushing for a stern response.
The Obama administration declined to comment on the deliberations, but pointed to a statement the Justice Department issued on Wednesday — the day before the initiative took effect in Washington — in the name of the United States attorney in Seattle, Jenny A. Durkan. She warned Washington residents that the drug remained illegal.
So what are the Federales considering?
One option is for federal prosecutors to bring some cases against low-level marijuana users of the sort they until now have rarely bothered with, waiting for a defendant to make a motion to dismiss the case because the drug is now legal in that state.
A more aggressive option is for the Justice Department to file lawsuits against the states to prevent them from setting up systems to regulate and tax marijuana, as the initiatives contemplated.
Another potential avenue would be to cut off federal grants to the states unless their legislatures restored anti-marijuana laws, said Gregory Katsas, who led the civil division of the Justice Department during the George W. Bush administration.
This is going to be an incredible drama to watch unfold, and in many ways I wouldn’t mind seeing Obama get aggressive on this issue because it will be such a huge political blunder. Not only was the vote overwhelming in favor of legalization in my state of Colorado (55% voted yes and it received more votes that Obama did in the state), but a very high percentage of Democrats support legalization and does he really want to start off his second term by marginalizing the remaining supporters he hasn’t already as a result of his horrible track record on civil liberties, banker bailouts and aggressive foreign policy? It’s not just Democrats though. A Rasmussen poll in May showed that 56% of those surveyed nationwide were in favor of legalization. Obama would just be fighting the inevitably culturally, protecting Mexican drug cartel profits and in the end just look like a fool.
Even more than a States rights versus Federal power issue, this is about democracy versus authoritarianism. Obama pushing back hard on the will of the people will only further expose the sham that is his Presidency for more to see.
I also discussed this issue on my recent appearance of Capital Account, which you can watch here.
Full New York Times article is here.