Free Markets, Free People
One of the most useful things I’ve learned about communication is the importance of stating things plainly and concretely.* But thinking about that lesson frequently makes politics maddening.
Euphemisms are the health of politics. If a government really wants to get away with murder, even secrecy can be less useful than making that particular murder sound unremarkable, justifiable, sensible, or even dutiful.
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.
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.