Thursday, January 14, 2016
Jacob Sullum: Legalization Lawsuit Shows Conservative Constitutionalists Have Marijuana-Related Memory Loss. As usual with Mr. Sullum, the whole thing is worth reading. Some highlights:
Last week, two days before Mexican authorities recaptured Joaquín Guzmán Loera, a.k.a. El Chapo, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt pointed to another drug lord, this one hiding in plain sight: John Hickenlooper, a.k.a. the governor of Colorado. “The State of Colorado authorizes, oversees, protects, and profits from a sprawling $100-million-per-month marijuana growing, processing, and retailing organization that exported thousands of pounds of marijuana to some 36 States in 2014,” Pruitt writes in a Supreme Court brief joined by Nebraska Attorney General Douglas Peterson. “If this entity were based south of our border, the federal government would prosecute it as a drug cartel.”
Hickenlooper actually was a drug dealer of sorts before he got into politics, having cofounded Wynkoop Brewing Company, a Denver brewpub, in 1988. But he ended up running the drug trafficking organization described in Pruitt’s brief by accident. He was elected governor two years before Colorado voters decided, against his advice, to legalize marijuana. Pruitt and Peterson are trying to overturn that result, claiming that it hurt Oklahoma and Nebraska by encouraging an influx of Colorado cannabis. Their argument shows how readily some conservative Republicans let their anti-pot prejudices override their federalist principles.
This, of course, is true. But it goes both ways. What's also interesting, though, is how many folks who believe the federal government has nearly total power over the states -- e.g., Governor Jerry Brown -- let their pro-pot opinions suddenly turn them into John C. Calhoun states-righters with respect to marijuana. When it comes to guns, for example, President Obama is all for federal control, but when it comes to pot . . . well, not so much. Mr. Sullum continues:
The Commerce Clause has been the most important excuse for expanding the federal government since the New Deal, and Raich stretched it further than ever before. It is precisely the sort of decision that an avowed federalist like Pruitt, who has resisted Obamacare as an unconstitutional extension of federal power, should condemn. Instead he is relying on it to force his policy preferences on a neighboring state.
To be fair to General Pruitt, however, that's what lawyers do. Obamacare is constitutional; it's the law. He's stuck with it. He's simply arguing that if liberals are going to force conservatives to have federal health care, conservatives are going to force liberals to follow the Controlled Substances Act.
Perhaps he even thinks that we'll get a limited Commerce Clause only if liberals find that some of the stuff they like gets taken away. It was U.S. Grant who said, "I know no method to secure the repeal of bad or obnoxious laws so effective as their stringent execution."