Free Markets, Free People

CO and WA’s pot laws – what’s going to happen?

Colorado and Washington had referrendums on their ballots this past election day in which growing pot for one’s own use was legalized.  Much like home brewing laws, users were given the go ahead to grow enough marijuana for their own, private use.

So what does that mean in the big scheme of things?  Certainly it will mean that at a state level, given the new law, state and local police aren’t going to be looking for small time users or growers.   And the Fed certainly doesn’t have the manpower to go after them.

The Washington Post points out:

But it’s unrealistic and unwise to expect federal officials to pick up the slack left by state law- enforcement officers who used to enforce marijuana prohibitions against pot users and small-time growers. Unrealistic, because it would require lots more resources.

Resources they don’t, frankly, have.

So here we have two states acting as sort of “labs” for freedom.  You know, trying something out as we were told states should do under a “federal” system.

Now, you may not agree about this particular application, but that’s how this system was supposed to work, wasn’t it?

The next obvious question then is will the Federal government allow that to happen or will it attempt to stop it.   My guess is even the Federal government knows it can’t stop it physically, so it will likely resort to legal means (i.e. somehow have the laws declared invalid, thereby again making Federal law supreme and requiring LEOs to enforce them).  But that could be a very long and protracted process.

For once (is there a blue moon out there?) in a very long time, the Washington Post and I agree for the most part:

[W]e favor decriminalizing possession of small amounts of pot, assessing civil fines instead of locking people up. Also, for that reason and others, the Justice Department should hold its fire on a lawsuit challenging Colorado and Washington’s decision to behave more leniently. And state officials involved in good-faith efforts to regulate marijuana production and distribution according to state laws should be explicitly excused from federal targeting.

It’s not yet clear how a quasi-legal pot industry might operate in Colorado and Washington or what its public-health effects will be. It could be that these states are harbingers of a slow, national reassessment of marijuana policy. Or their experiment could serve as warning for the other 48 states.

For now, the federal government does not need to stage an aggressive intervention, one way or the other. It can wait, watch and enforce the most worrisome violations as they occur.

Where we disagree is the next to last sentence.  If you’re going to stay out of it now, stay out of it later.  You can’t “leave it up to the states” until you decide not too.  And, it would be a nice decentralization of power – you know, federalism – which allow the states what they were originally supposed to enjoy – a certain level of autonomy (remember, the federal government was originally supposed to be mostly focused externally while the states, within Constitutional limits, pretty much looked after themselves.).

It would be a nice change from the constant attempts by the Fed to accrue power.


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11 Responses to CO and WA’s pot laws – what’s going to happen?

  • If you know much about the history of Prohibition, this is very much in line with how it died.
    Unfortunately, the incentives for the war on drugs make it very strongly supported by local law enforcement (sans such laws as CO & WA), which is different from the Prohibition experience in that regard.

  • The problem here is that the decentralization of power is an anathema to the leftists who favor big government, or for that matter, social conservative busy-bodies.
    If the state laws regarding the legalization of pot are allowed to stand it possibly opens up a flood gate of other things the Fed does, but shouldn’t, being thrown under the bus of the 10th Amendment.  For myself, that would be nice to see.  For the power mongers in Washington it is a threat to their rule.

    • The whole drug status quo is a mixture of competing agendas.  We have the growing number of studies that show disruption of the development of young brains, the general trend to end smoking except when it generates revenue to state treasuries, the growing awareness of purity of essence (POE) which requires that we end the use of transfats and large sodas, and the absolute uselessness of the 9th amendment.

  • Can the Federal government really force state and local police to enforce federal drug laws while, at the same time, prevent them from enforcing federal immigration law?

    • No.  Certainly not in practicality.  Cops have a LOT of discretion on the street.

      • Best one I saw on COPS was a guy leaving his crazy ex-girlfriend.  He packs up a U-Haul and is headed out.  GF calls the police and says he is running drugs.  He is not but one of his friends has a joint on him and fesses up to the police about it during the search.  So the cops ask him who would tell the police that he was running drugs and he says, “My ex-girlfriend.”  The cops get him to call her up and ask why she would set him up.  She laughs it up about how she got him busted and the police record the whole thing.  They let the guy and his buddy off with a warning and go bust the ex-girlfriend for filing a false police report.

  • bruce, CO legalized growing your own, WA did not. WA is a soup to nuts govt pot growing and selling operation per the initiative.

    • Ah, okay … still a “do we have the resources to stop it physically” question for the Fed – different approaches likely, but same question. Answer? No. Not without support from local and state LEOs.

      The whole point being if enough states pass laws like these and refuse to enforce Federal law, what can they do? Either accept or sue. We already have massive civil disobedience in the form of the use of illegal drugs. Usage won’t end in the two states that just passed these laws just because the Feds win a lawsuit (or anywhere else for that matter). It just makes one wonder why this incredible effort to continue a failed program called the “war on drugs”. With the history of prohibition, and it’s failure, it just defies common sense.

  • Feds can always withhold highway funding until they change their law like they did with Louisiana.  No lawsuit or additional personnel required.