Federalism should extend to marijuana raids
September 10, 2007
Radley Balko, Politico.com
Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) recently said that, if elected president, he would end the federal raids on marijuana clinics in states that have legalized the drug for medical purposes.
That makes the Democratic field unanimous now — all would end the raids and allow the states to craft their own medical marijuana policy, free from federal interference. By contrast, just two of the remaining GOP candidates — Rep. Ron Paul (Texas) and Rep. Tom Tancredo (Colo.) — and none of the front-runners have promised to call off the raids.
This is unfortunate for a party that once fancied itself the torch-bearer for federalism — the idea that most laws should be made on as local a level as possible, both to encourage state “laboratories of democracy” to experiment with different policies and to allow people to utilize the freedom of movement to choose to live in those jurisdictions with laws that best reflect their own values.
If ever there were an issue for which federalism would seem to be an ideal solution, it’s the medical marijuana issue, which touches on crime, medical policy, privacy and individual freedom — all the sorts of values-laden areas of public policy that states are best equipped to deal with on a case-by-case basis, and for which a one-size-fits-all federal policy seems particularly clunky and ill-suited.
Yet the GOP won’t let go. The White House continues to send federal SWAT teams into convalescent centers, dispensaries and treatment centers, often putting sick people on the receiving end of paramilitary tactics, gun barrels and terrifying raids.
It’s difficult to understand how the same party that (correctly, in my view) argues that the federal government has no business telling the states how they should regulate their businesses, set their speed limits, keep their air and water free of pollution or regulate the sale of firearms within their borders can at the same time feel that the federal government can and should tell states that they aren’t allowed to let sick people obtain relief wherever they might find it.
Medical marijuana is probably a nonstarter politically.
Though polls show most Americans support medical marijuana, few decide their votes on the issue, save for a cadre of drug reform activists and the people who actually need the stuff to treat their symptoms.
But the issue ought to be of wider concern to principled federalists, because it was the GOP’s stubborn support for near-limitless federal power to fight the drug war that killed the nascent federalism revolution before it ever grew wings.