In the days following the 2016 election, there were already worrying signs that the Trump administration didn’t merely view the War on Drugs as a useful source of rhetoric to please some Conservatives. With the appointment of Jeff Sessions — who appears to be a true believer in the War on Drugs — the threat to federalism, states’s rights, and local control was all too real.
The fears continue to be stoked by the administration itself, and yesterday White House spokesman Sean Spicer announcing that “I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement of [federal law against marijuana].”
So, in an administration where Trump’s promised health care reforms are anything but a done deal — and which is plagued with leaks and conflict with the US intelligence establishment — Spicer suggests the administration has enough extra time to ramp up prosecutions of American citizens for smoking a joint. The fact that 81 percent of all drug arrests are for simple possession means that yes, increasing federal enforcement is about arresting and prosecuting small-time users.
Spicer justifies this with the well-worn claim often made by Conservatives that “There is still a federal law that we need to abide by … when it comes to recreational marijuana and other drugs of that nature.”
At the core of this statement is the same hypocrisy that infects much of the right wing on the Drug War issue.
Conservatives like to talk a good game about State’s rights and local control when it comes to issues like gun laws and Obamacare, but federalism and the Constitution go right out the window on the drug issue.
This has long been obvious, and was solidified in federal court when Trump’s nominee to head the EPA, Scott Pruitt, sued Colorado in federal court when he was attorney general of Oklahoma. Pruitt and the GOP attorney general from Nebraska both attempted to get the federal court to render Colorado’s drug laws null and void — which would have essentially destroyed what’s left of federalism and states’s rights down to its foundations. Pruitt, however, was making this same argument at the very same time he was arguing that the states had the right to override Obamacare mandates.
But the hypocrisy does not stop there. Conservatives love to talk about following the “original intent” of the US Constitution and demanding the federal government do nothing that is not authorized by the Constitution. That, of course, is then conveniently forgotten on the drug issue.
Although Sean Spicer certainly won’t admit it, the “federal law we need to abide by” is not some federal statute passed by Congress about drugs. The law we need to abide by is found in the US Constitution — specifically the Tenth Amendment — where it clearly states that “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
So does the Constitution delegate to the United States government the power to regulate what sort of plants people eat, smoke, or grow? Here’s a hint: No, it doesn’t.
(read more at The Mises Institute)
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Contributed by Ryan McMaken of Mises Institute.