We’re disappointed that White House press secretary Sean Spicer recently said “greater enforcement” of federal drug laws, including prohibition of marijuana, is coming.
“There’s a federal law that we need to abide by when it comes to recreational marijuana and other drugs of that nature,” he said. This, at a time when a majority of Americans support not only limiting federal enforcement of marijuana laws but outright legalizing the drug.
Such a move would run counter to multiple statements by Donald Trump on the campaign trail. “[In] terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state-by-state,” he said, for example, during a campaign rally on Oct. 29, 2015.
From a constitutional perspective, this is the most sensible and pragmatic approach to marijuana. Nowhere in the U.S. Constitution is there a provision granting the federal government the authority to prohibit intoxicants. In America’s prior engagement with the folly of prohibition, that of alcohol, proponents of prohibition at least had the decency to seek and obtain a narrowly worded constitutional amendment, the 18th Amendment, to justify federal intervention. This hasn’t been true of marijuana or other drugs.
Voters in most states that have been presented a ballot initiative on marijuana legalization have opted to approve it. Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia have approved outright legalization for medicinal and recreational use, while a majority of states have approved marijuana for medicinal use.
Most Americans are simply ready to be done with the issue. A Quinnipiac poll released last month found 71 percent of Americans opposed to the enforcement of federal laws against marijuana in states that have legalized it for recreational or medicinal purposes. This includes 55 percent of Republicans, 72 percent of independents and 80 percent of Democrats. On the question of legalization, pollsters found support from 59 percent of respondents.
A renewal of a failed and constitutionally dubious federal crackdown on marijuana is simply not a priority of the American public. Gone are the days of reefer madness and even “Just Say No,” with legalization, taxation and regulation seen as a more efficacious and just means of combating the harms of marijuana use, while respecting the freedom of individual choice.
We encourage the federal government to take a hands-off approach toward marijuana. Meanwhile, we support efforts in Congress to remove marijuana from federal control.
Last week, Reps. Tom Garrett, R-Va., and Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, introduced the “Ending Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017,” which would remove marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act and thus grant states the flexibility to deal with it. This bill should bring together those who believe in states rights, individual freedom and a sensible justice system.
The pretense of federal marijuana prohibition — that arresting users, growers and sellers of marijuana will prevent use of the drug — has long been shown to be nothing more than a harmful delusion that has criminalized far too many people. We encourage President Trump to do the right thing and allow states to make their own choices.
More opinion columns: New administration shouldn’t crack down on cannabis