Today's announcement from the Trump Administration which rescinded the so-called 'Holder Memorandum' has caused near panic among West Coast Leftists. In 2013, former US Attorney-General Holder issued this dictum, which essentially ordered Federal authorities to refrain from taking legal action against marijuana use in states where it had been legalized.
Politicians like Washington Governor Jay Inslee---people to whom the pothead vote is important---went so far as to threaten Federal authorities with violence. "Any Federal Prosecutor who tries to enforce this won't be safe on the streets of Washington State." Inslee vowed. A sentiment not unlike his fellow-Democrat George Wallace once proposed about desegregation laws. Wallace had to be reminded, rather pointedly, that threatening federal officials is a serious offence; it wouldn't hurt Inslee to remember the same thing.
But Leftist hysteria aside, today's decision was part of a comprehensive policy initiated a few months ago. Previous Administrations had fallen into the illegal practice of creating laws out of whole cloth simply by attaching them to Memorandums which were intended to be nothing more than policy guidelines. The Department of Justice under President Trump has stopped this practice and is in the process of repealing Memorandums which are contrary to law.
The 2013 Memorandum was one of these. The Federal Government still classifies marijuana as a controlled substance. Congress never passed any law repealing that classification. Holder had no authority to permit states to opt out of the law. Therefore, the Memorandum itself was illegal; and therefore states which have legalized marijuana have done so in violation of Federal Law.
That is the extent of the legal problem here. Either Congress or the Courts will have to intervene and either repeal the existing law or declare it unconstitutional if marijuana is to be made legal. Or conversely, uphold the existing law. But that's what should have been the first place, because it really boils down to legal conflicts. For example, marijuana producers in a legal state cannot comply with IRS guidelines because they are officially engaged in a criminal enterprise. Likewise, states are profiting off revenues withheld from other states.
The other legal issue is that a State cannot nullify a Federal Law. This was decided in 1832 when South Carolina refused to uphold the federal cotton tax. Holder really messed this up badly because he essentially granted states the authority to nullify laws---and selectively, at that. The states which legalized marijuana are in the position of enforcing an ex post facto law on the marijuana industry, which is also unconstitutional. The Obama Administration once again put everybody involved in a legal Catch-22.
The way to approach this is to sort it out through the courts and through legislation. Above all, heavy-handed measures like the anarchistic Inslee suggests should be avoided. From the Trump Administration's side, going back to Clinton-Era 'Drug War' tactics would also be counterproductive. What we need is a cohesive national policy. It's simply wrong that people in one part of the country can get stoned in Hookah Lounges while people in another part face mandatory minimum prison sentences for far less egregious actions. It can't be both ways.
Granted, it's not to tell hop-heads to be patient and think clearly. But clear heads and reason are what's needed here the most.
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