“Congress has no power to compel states to prohibit the cultivation, possession and transfer of marijuana,” according to Randy Barnett, an attorney who litigated a Supreme Court case exploring the limits of the CSA.
The recent decision of the Supreme Court to throw out the lawsuit against Colorado is a nice fist-pump for pro-cannabis activists. It gives us a sense of vindication, and for once, it feels like the federal government has our backs. What ramifications, though, does this have on the battlefield of legalization? The war is far from over, but we may have just redefined the arena.
Kevin Sabet with Smart Approaches to Marijuana is one of those not backing down. S.A.M. is little more than a prohibition group that disguises itself as being about scientific caution and criminal reforms to lure middle ground voters away from full legalization. In response to the Supreme Court decision, he had this to say:
“It’s obviously a disappointment,” said Kevin Sabet in an email to the Washington Post. “But we think legalization will be defeated on its own policy merits.”
Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson sees this as just a temporary setback in the fight to push federal supremacy and subvert the will of the people of Colorado.
“The Court’s decision does not bar additional challenges to Colorado’s scheme in federal district court,” Peterson said, and his office stated it would work with Oklahoma and other prohibition states “to determine the best next steps toward vindicating the rule of law.”
The question of whether the federal government could indeed step in and overrule state laws concerning legal marijuana has been in the minds of activists from the very beginning. It is this fear that has left many potential investors holding back, many states on the fence about passing their own laws, and many would be supporters fighting with lackluster hope. While Prohibitionists would love nothing more than a federal crackdown, legal experts have come to the backing of Colorado’s rights.
“Congress has no power to compel states to prohibit the cultivation, possession and transfer of marijuana,” according to Randy Barnett, an attorney who litigated a Supreme Court case exploring the limits of the CSA. “In the absence of such state prohibition, all such activities are completely legal under state law, notwithstanding that they are illegal under federal law,” he wrote last year.
In other words, Congress can call pot illegal all they want, but states don’t have to enforce the federal rules if they don’t want to. Furthermore, they can set up legal markets and allow trade without fear of Uncle Sam stepping in to stop them. The irony is that Prohibitionists have been using this fear to slow the pro-pot movement for a long time, but because they actually tried to use their “ace”, they exposed it for the bluff it really was. Now that the issue of State vs Fed law rights has been addressed, the movement will gain more steam than ever.
“The Supreme Court’s rejection of this misguided effort to undo cautious and effective state-level regulation of marijuana is excellent news for the many other states looking to adopt similar reforms in 2016 and beyond,” said Tamar Todd, director of the office of legal affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, in a statement.
The United States was founded with the express design of independent states balanced by an overarching federal government that allowed them to work as a unit, with limited power in and of itself. Our founding fathers did this to prevent a reincarnation of the tyranny they faced under the Imperial English monarchy.
Over the years, however, political agendas and historical circumstances have allowed the powers that be to fortify the position of the federal government into an almost completely unbalanced force. Each one of these events has been an event that stretched the powers of national government over the rights of states:
With each event, the founding law has been bent more and more. Now it’s interpretation is more varied and liberally twisted to circumstance than the Bible. The various reasons for assuming extra temporary powers have been both humanitarian and nefarious. Regardless, each time the power has been kept, instead of surrendered. This dismissal, and the premise it creates, is the first time in a long time that the tide has turned back to the true principles on which this country was founded.
Do you feel that the tide is turning in favor of national legalization? Share your thoughts with us on social media or in the comments below.