Feds no longer busting sick people for medical marijuana use

Well, I don’t know how we missed posting on this yesterday, but Obama has done something very, very right by calling off the Feds in states where medicinal marijuana use is permitted.  In terms of states’ rights, patient rights, and just sane, rational domestic policy, Obama made the right move. And according to Gallup, he’s joining the rest of the United States in an upward trend toward support for legalization.  In fact, Americans now favor legalization at 44% – a new U.S. high.  (No pun intended.)

legalize_it

Public opinion is virtually the same on a question that relates to a public policy debate brewing in California — whether marijuana should be legalized and taxed as a way of raising revenue for state governments. Just over 4 in 10 Americans (42%) say they would favor this in their own state; 56% are opposed. Support is markedly higher among residents of the West — where an outright majority favor the proposal — than in the South and Midwest. The views of Eastern residents fall about in the middle.

The new findings come as the U.S. Justice Department has reportedly decided to loosen its enforcement of federal anti-marijuana laws by not pursuing individuals who buy or sell small amounts of the drug in conformity with their own states’ medical marijuana laws. This seems likely to meet with U.S. public approval, as previous Gallup polling has found Americans generally sympathetic to legalizing marijuana for medical purposes. In 2003, 75% of Americans favored allowing doctors to legally prescribe marijuana to patients in order to reduce pain and suffering.

This is also an economic issue.  In California, not only are normal suburbanites turning to pot-farming for extra cash – selling legally to dispensaries – but local governments are shoring up lost revenue during the recession with new cannabis taxes.

The geographic aspect to this is also interesting.  Out here in the West we have much higher favorability toward legalizing and taxing marijuana than in the rest of the country.

Feds no longer busting sick people for medical marijuana use

Several states other than California have also legalized medicinal marijuana use, but only California has set up a dispensary system.  Without this system, actually getting medical marijuana is nearly impossible, and puts honest people into the often dangerous, and at least very shady world of drug dealers and criminals.  So the next step, I’d say, would be for citizens of states like Arizona to push their legislators to enacting laws to establish safe and legal means of distributing marijuana to patients.  Now that Obama won’t have the feds breathing down law-abiding citizens’ necks like the previous administration, we may actually see a real return to sanity in the war on drugs.  Or semi-sanity at least.

It’s better than nothing.

Update.

Both Jacob Sullum and Michelle Malkin cast doubts on the practical implications of this policy shift.  All I know is that it’s a step in the right direction, even if it is a baby step.  Baby steps are okay, too.  One small baby-step for mankind and all that jazz….

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9 thoughts on “Feds no longer busting sick people for medical marijuana use

  1. I admit to cautious optimism.

    I would note that not pursuing individuals who buy or sell small amounts of the drug in conformity with their own states’ medical marijuana laws has a *TON* of wiggle room.

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  2. It’s my belief that this is a really great example of states being allowed to function as ‘laboratories of our Democracy’. California is the guinea pig and it looks like they are doing a pretty good job of dealing with the transition to what will probably be a Netherlands-style legalization at some point. I can only hope other states are willing to follow their lead.

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  3. The simplest thing to defuse the pursuit of marijuana dispensaries would be to reschedule marijuana down to Schedule 3 in the Controlled Substances Act (http://www.usdoj.gov/dea/pubs/csa/812.htm#c). Because to be a Schedule I drug, it must have no accepted medical use – which facts on the ground contradict. A marijuana seizure is just as good as a heroin or methamphetamine seizure on paper for law enforcement officials. Taking away the bureaucratic reward for a Schedule I drug bust would refocus law enforcement officials on pursuing what most would agree are more dangerous drugs – heroine, cocaine, and methamphetamine.

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  4. Though I agree with the decision, Obama is choosing to ignore the law. When gay rights activists push for action on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (like calling on Obama to issue a stop order), we’re told he must obey the law whether he likes it or not, and to do otherwise would make him like Bush. This just shows that he can and does ignore bad law at his discretion, and if he cared to, he could stop firing gay soldiers, just like he chose to stop arresting sick people.

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    • Though I share your opinion on Obama’s gay policies, I don’t think it’s quite the same thing. This is not Obama vs. federal law. It’s Obama + states laws vs. federal law. And as the link posted above indicates, even here he’s still allowing federal prosecutors leeway to pursue MJ possession, if they want.

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    • We have this belief that the federal courts are the last and only place where constitutional interpretation can take place. Obama has here decreed (more or less) that federal marijuana laws are superseded by state laws. He hasn’t fallen back on an explicitly constitutional argument, but in the end that’s what it amounts to.

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