Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Among Prez candidates, "Marijuana Federalism Beats Prohibitionist Meddling"

The quoted portion of this post comes from the headline of this recent Reason piece by Jacob Sullum, which canvasses at length the comments made by 2016 presidential candidates about whether they would respect state effort to reform their marijuana regimes in the shadow of federal prohibition.  Here is how the piece starts and ends:

Last week New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie reiterated his intention to crack down on marijuana in states that have legalized it if he is elected president.  In an interview on Face the Nation, Christie answered "yes" when asked whether he would "return the federal prosecutions in these states," "yes" when asked if he would "go after" marijuana, and "correct" when asked if legalization would be "turned off."

If he were president, Christie could make a lot of trouble for state-licensed growers and retailers, but he would not actually have the power to make Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon recriminalize marijuana.  Furthermore, any attempt to override the decisions made by voters in those states would arouse strong objections — and not just from supporters of legalization. Illustrating that point, another Republican presidential contender, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, disagreed with Christie.  "Colorado voters made a choice," she said in a Fox News interview last Tuesday. "I don't support their choice, but I do support their right to make that choice."

As I noted in March, that stance is pretty common among Republicans seeking their party's presidential nomination, and it seems politically smart, since even voters who hate marijuana do not necessarily think the federal government should force prohibition on states that do not want it.  A recent Pew Research Center survey found that three-fifths of Americans think the feds should not "enforce federal marijuana laws" in states that have legalized pot.  Even more striking: A 2012 CBS News survey found that 65 percent of Republicans thought "laws regarding whether the use of marijuana is legal or not should be…left to each individual state government to decide," even though only 27 percent supported Colorado-style legalization....

In short, Chris Christie's determination to stamp out marijuana legalization puts him in the minority among presidential candidates, among Republicans, and among the general public. "I don't believe that people want to be told just what they want to hear," he said on Face the Nation. "I believe they want to be told the truth as the person who is running sees it." There's a startling proposition: In 2015, it seems, promising to keep marijuana illegal counts as courage.

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/marijuana_law/2015/06/among-prez-candidates-marijuana-federalism-beats-prohibitionist-meddling.html

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