Consistency Needed in Application of 10th Amendment

LaVarr WebbLast week I noted that many states are defying federal law by allowing the recreational and medical use of marijuana.

According to The Economist magazine, about three-fifths of America’s population lives in states that now allow cannabis use in some form. More than 32 million Americans use cannabis.

However, the large and growing marijuana industry may be in trouble because Pres.-Elect Trump has selected Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, a strong opponent of marijuana use, as his attorney general.

Just as the Obama Justice Department chose to ignore the willful violation of federal law with regard to marijuana use, the Trump Justice Department may choose to enforce the law. Sessions could shut down all legal marijuana operations in the country.

That would be bad news for the $6 billion marijuana industry. Market research firms expect the industry to reach a market value of nearly $22 billion by 2020.

It’s fascinating that, recognizing the threat, liberal marijuana advocates are falling back on a constitutional provision usually touted by conservative groups – the 10th Amendment and states’ rights. In a McLatchy News Service story, Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, said Sessions “has long advocated for state sovereignty” and that he needs to ensure that the wishes of state voters are respected.

“I believe that President-elect Trump is someone who has a high regard for the 10th Amendment and states’ rights,” said Derek Peterson, chief executive officer of Terra Tech, a cannabis company in California.

Liberal Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., one of the top supporters of full-scale legalization in Congress, said, “I am hopeful that the next administration, regardless of the attorney general’s personal feelings, will respect the 10th Amendment and states’ rights to set their own policy in regards to cannabis.”

I’ve received a number of email messages from cannabis industry organizations asking their supporters to use the 10th Amendment/states’ rights argument to prevent a federal crackdown.

Personally, I believe it will be impossible, despite Sessions’ personal views, for the Trump administration to reverse the pro-marijuana tide that is sweeping the nation. Use of marijuana is going to be legal in most places, just like alcohol and tobacco. I believe the cannabis advocates are right that this should be an issue decided by the states.

But I also believe that policymakers, especially those liberal supporters of centralization and big government one-size-fits-all regulations (except in the case of marijuana), ought to be consistent in their advocacy of the 10th Amendment and apply it beyond their pet projects.

A New York Times editorial demonstrates the hypocrisy of liberals who capriciously apply the states’ rights argument to reflect their own views: “Consuming marijuana is not a fundamental right that should be imposed on the states by the federal government, in the manner of abortion rights, health insurance, or the freedom to marry a partner of either sex. It’s a choice that states should be allowed to make based on their culture and their values . . .”

So it’s OK for the federal government to force states and citizens to obey laws the NY Times deems as “fundamental rights.” (Health insurance is a fundamental right? Really?) But if the feds pass a law the NY Times doesn’t like, then the editorial board is all for the 10th Amendment.

I say let the states decide if they want to prohibit marijuana. But let the states also determine their own policies on a whole host of social, environmental, public lands and education issues based on “their culture and their values.”