Federal drug agents won't pursue pot-smoking patients or their sanctioned suppliers in states that allow medical marijuana, under new legal guidelines to be issued Monday by the Obama administration.Now, I am not a big fan of medical marijuana use, in fact I oppose it. I oppose because I am sure that we can find a non-marijuana substitute among the plethora of medicines out there. Seriously, if we can have ten drugs on the market for erectile dysfunction, drugs for thin or weak eye-lashes, hair loss in general, and more serious problems like cervical cancer or asthma problems, then our drug companies must surely be able to mimic the relief given by medical marijuana.
Two Justice Department officials described the new policy to The Associated Press, saying prosecutors will be told it is not a good use of their time to arrest people who use or provide medical marijuana in strict compliance with state law.
The guidelines to be issued by the department do, however, make it clear that agents will go after people whose marijuana distribution goes beyond what is permitted under state law or use medical marijuana as a cover for other crimes, the officials said.
The new policy is a significant departure from the Bush administration, which insisted it would continue to enforce federal anti-pot laws regardless of state codes.
Fourteen states allow some use of marijuana for medical purposes: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
I understand that the federal government has an interest in stopping interstate drug trafficking and that it is a legitimate concern. But I do think the federal government has gotten too involved and too overbearing in matters that quite frankly should be the law enforcement purview of the states. I think if a state wants to decriminalize marijuana, that should be permitted. I think the federal government could prosecute the person who transports drugs across state lines, but should not be invovled in state drug policy.
Oddly enough, I think that this move by the Obama Administration is one of the smartest it has made. It is in line with federal principles and states' rights. But to be fair, this is an odd policy area to suddenly come to grips with the 10th Amendment.
But Republicans are going to overreact. They are going to claim, wrongly, that Obama wants to legalize marijuana and I simply don't see that. I do see an acknowledgement that states have a legitimate policy interest and I think Republicans should take their battle to the states to prevent decriminalization or expansion of medical marijuana laws. But you can be sure that the GOP is going to react improperly on this matter.