Taking the Initiative

Taking the Initiative
Posted by CN Staff on November 01, 2002 at 18:33:51 PT
By Jacob Sullum
Source: Reason Magazine
John Walters, the federal drug czar, has been striving for a delicate balance during his recent visits to Nevada. On the one hand, he has made it clear that he wants Nevadans to vote against an initiative on Tuesday's ballot that would legalize private marijuana use by adults. "This is a con, and it's insulting to the voters of the state in which it was presented," Walters said in Reno last month. He dismissed supporters of the initiative, which would allow licensed marijuana sales and possession of up to three ounces, as "goofballs." 
On the other hand, Walters has tried not to come across as too heavy-handed, lest he antagonize an electorate that seems to be almost evenly split on the issue. "People have a right to make their own decisions," he said in Las Vegas last summer. He added that if Nevadans decide to legalize pot, "I don't believe you'll see federal officials coming into [Nevada] to enforce possession laws." The implication that the federal government would let Nevada go its own way is hard to believe when you consider how the Clinton and Bush administrations have responded to more modest marijuana policy reforms. A week before Election Day, a U.S. appeals court rebuked the federal government for threatening to put doctors out of business if they dared to recommend marijuana as a medicine. The medical use of marijuana is permitted by nine states (including Nevada), in all but one case as a result of ballot initiatives. Far from conceding that people—whether voters, physicians, or patients—"have a right to make their own decisions," Walters and his predecessor, Barry McCaffrey, have insisted that doctors who recommend cannabis should lose their federal prescription licenses. Responding to a challenge brought by California patients and physicians, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit rejected that threat as an unconstitutional infringement on freedom of speech. In a concurring opinion, Judge Alex Kozinski noted that "the federal government's policy deliberately undermines the state by incapacitating the mechanism the state has chosen for separating what is legal from what is illegal," since California allows marijuana use only by patients who have a doctor's recommendation. "In effect," Kozinski wrote, "the federal government is forcing the state to keep medical marijuana illegal." Such an imposition, he suggested, amounts to unconstitutional "commandeering" in violation of a state's prerogatives under the 10th Amendment. That kind of strong-arming is especially suspect, he said, when "Congress legislates at the periphery of its powers." The federal drug laws are ostensibly based on Congress's authority to "regulate Commerce...among the several States." Yet as Kozinski noted, "medical marijuana, when grown locally for personal consumption, does not have any direct or obvious effect on interstate commerce." Last year the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that federal law does not allow a "medical necessity" defense against marijuana charges. In other words, the fact that marijuana is the only effective way for someone to obtain relief from debilitating nausea or agonizing pain does not protect him from federal prosecution. But the Court did not address the question of whether the federal prohibition of medical marijuana violates the 10th Amendment or exceeds Congress's authority under the Commerce Clause. Those issues, among others, are raised in a lawsuit filed last month by two California patients who are challenging the Drug Enforcement Administration's crackdown on organizations that distribute marijuana to sick people. Both the unsuccessful attempt to gag doctors and the (so far) successful effort to shut down medical marijuana clubs indicate that the federal government is reluctant to let states experiment with new drug policies, as they have every right to do under our constitutional system. Local resentment of this interference is so strong that San Franciscans are likely to approve a measure on Tuesday that would ask the city to explore the possibility of growing and distributing medical marijuana. An Arizona proposition that would establish a state distribution system also has attracted substantial support. By contrast, Nevada's initiative (which has to be approved by voters twice because it would amend the state constitution) would allow private sales, not just to patients but to anyone 21 or older. Could John Walters, who can't stand the idea that sick people might use marijuana to get relief from their symptoms with state approval, learn to live with such a system, as he suggests? I hope we get a chance to find out. Jacob Sullum's weekly column is distributed by Creators Syndicate. If you'd like to see it in your local newspaper, write or call the editorial page editor. Note: Will the feds let states try new drug policies? Source: Reason Magazine (US)Author: Jacob SullumPublished: November 1, 2002Copyright 2002 by Creators Syndicate Inc. Contact: letters reason.comWebsite: Related Articles & Web Sites:NRLE vs. Walters & Judge Kozinski vs. Walters in PDF U.S. Papers Say About Medical Pot Voters Face Marijuana Initiative
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Comment #11 posted by afterburner on November 02, 2002 at 18:42:20 PT:
"Goofballs" are Sedatives, not Psychedelics.
John P. Walters needs a medical lesson before he sweeps the air with such glittering generalities. "Goofballs" are Sedatives, not Psychedelics. "Goofballs" have nothing to do with cannabis, a mild psychedelic, or cannabis reformers. "Goofballs" have more in common with alcohol or heroin than they ever will with cannabis. ego destruction or ego transcendence, that is the question.Refresh, realize, and re-legalize.Vote, vote, vote.
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Comment #10 posted by pokesmotter on November 02, 2002 at 07:35:46 PT:
walters lies
He added that if Nevadans decide to legalize pot, "I don't believe you'll see federal officials coming into [Nevada] to enforce possession laws." in my opinion, this is one of the things i am sure he will go back on if Q9 passes in 04.
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Comment #9 posted by goneposthole on November 02, 2002 at 06:58:05 PT
Steve Tuck
needs a little help. Do what you can. He would do it for you. He has done it for many others.
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Comment #8 posted by JR Bob Dobbs on November 02, 2002 at 05:30:17 PT
And now for something completely different:
I don't usually go for the gossip columns, but I happened across this link and decided I'd pass it along. It's going to show up in the celebrity corner of Cannabis Culture soon enough...
Justin Timberlake of N'Sync admits to inhaling
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Comment #7 posted by afterburner on November 01, 2002 at 23:26:38 PT:
Libby Davies, M.P.
If you haven't heard it yet, check out the interview with Libby Davies, M.P. (Member of Parliament), member of a Commons committee investigating Canadian drug use and drug policy, on 01 Nov, 2002 Pot-TV. She speaks out in favour of treatment instead of incarceration, and against prohibition.
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Comment #6 posted by FoM on November 01, 2002 at 23:24:59 PT
Thanks knox42897 & Swampie
I just checked by going to and it said I would need to register and I don't think anyone but AOL can get it but thanks! Keep the results posted if you want so we can see.I'm done for today. I'm tired. I don't think I've adjusted to ET yet. This is a very important week coming up and I hope we win. We all have given it our best shot so no matter what we've won in my book.Then the following week is the Marijuana Policy Project and SSDP Conference. Lots of interesting things happening.
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Comment #5 posted by knox42897 on November 01, 2002 at 23:18:31 PT:
I believe its an aol only poll
I tried to drag and drop the link but it won't go?
I seem to be able to email the link, you want me to email it to you and you figure it out?
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Comment #4 posted by SWAMPIE on November 01, 2002 at 23:16:45 PT
The AOL poll is on the very front page when you open to There's even a nice picture to look at!LOL! SWAMPIE
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Comment #3 posted by FoM on November 01, 2002 at 22:58:08 PT
Do you have a link so we can vote? 
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Comment #2 posted by knox42897 on November 01, 2002 at 22:56:50 PT:
80% yes 319,90820% no  80,846total  400,756LOOK FOR RESPONSIBLE LAW ENFORCEMENT COMING NEAR YOU SOON.
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Comment #1 posted by DdC on November 01, 2002 at 19:50:36 PT
Drug Policy Alliance
Subject: eNewsletter: Thursday, October 31, 2002 DRUG POLICY ALLIANCE ...on the web HELP STOP THE WAR ON DRUGS BY:
Find out how at: for Drug Policy Alliance National NewsFederal Court of Appeals Upholds Doctor's Right to Recommend Medical Marijuana Favor Marijuana Decriminalization, Medical Marijuana Day for Prop. 215 Arrests For Year 2001 Second Highest Ever Policy Reform Campaigns Come Down to Wire in Washington, DC, Ohio, Arizona, California, Nevada for Parents: Honest Information about Ecstasy and Other Drugs on New Website Emphasizing Safety First Survey Reveals U.S. Employees Fear Loss of Job if They Seek Drug, Alcohol Treatment Tax Commissioner Analysis Refutes Issue 1 Misinformation
http://www.ohiodrugreform.orgSTUDY: ANTI-DRUG COALITIONS DON'T WORKAlthough specific anti-drug programs can be useful, community coalitions in general are not effective at reducing drug and alcohol use and a coalition of many groups seems even less workable, researchers reported Monday. The findings, which appear in the November issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, are the results of an attempt by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to determine if Fighting Back -- a community coalition anti-drug approach it began funding during the late 1980s -- has worked. The foundation, located in Princeton, N.J., poured $64 million into Fighting Back over the years and the new research involved an additional $14 million investment. "Broad coalitions are expensive to maintain and may not lend themselves to effective or well- implemented strategies," lead study author Denise Hallfors told United Press International. "Broad goals do not lend themselves to effects on specific outcomes." Story continued at: International NewsEuropean Lawmaker Defies Marijuana Law, Sentenced On Drugs Charge Production Soaring in Afghanistan Recent Additions to http://www.drugpolicy.org9TH CIRCUIT FEDERAL COURT OF APPEALS OPINION, CONANT V. WALTERS MADNESS REDUX Y PROHIBICION DE DROGAS E V E N T S
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