CA Pot Initiative: Don't Forget About Federal Law
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CA Pot Initiative: Don't Forget About Federal Law
Posted by CN Staff on October 06, 2010 at 06:04:56 PT
Source: Wall Street Journal
USA -- As former administrators of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, we believe that Proposition 19 to legalize marijuana in California is a grave misstep. The ballot measure is being promoted by legalization lobbyists on the grounds that taxes raised from the sale of the drug will help the state with its financial crises. This simply isn't true.That's because if passed by voters in November, Proposition 19—also known as the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010—will be in direct conflict with the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), a federal law that makes the production and sale of marijuana a federal crime. In our federal system, a state law that conflicts with a federal law violates the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution and is void.
The CSA itself clearly states that federal law overrides state law when there is a positive conflict between the two jurisdictions. Thus there is very little likelihood that anyone is going to be paying sales taxes to the state of California or its municipalities when to do so would be admitting the commission of a federal felony.The California proposition is not a close call. It will be in explicit conflict with established federal law. It will also violate our government's treaty obligations with other countries.It's also noteworthy that President Obama's 2010 National Drug Control Strategy unequivocally opposes the legalization of marijuana:"Keeping drugs illegal reduces their availability and lessens willingness to use them. This Administration firmly opposes the legalization of marijuana or any other illicit drug. Legalizing drugs would increase accessibility and encourage promotion and acceptance of use. Diagnostic, laboratory, clinical and epidemiological studies clearly indicate that marijuana use is associated with dependence, respiratory and mental illness, poor motor performance, and cognitive impairment, among other negative effects, and legalization would only exacerbate these problems."Given the clarity of President Obama's position, it would help if the Department of Justice made it clear that if Proposition 19 passes it will violate federal law and the Constitution's Supremacy Clause.The Department of Justice acted quickly to assert the Constitution's Supremacy Clause in its recent suit to declare null and void certain provisions of Arizona's immigration bill. It should act just as swiftly in order to prevent Proposition 19 from becoming law. While the California ballot initiative has not yet been approved by the voters, as was the case in Arizona, it would be in the public interest to make voters aware of its implications and where the Justice Department would stand if the initiative passes.We have urged Attorney General Eric Holder to speak out on this issue. If Mr. Holder and his department remain silent, it will send an unfortunate message to the public and to our law-enforcement counterparts overseas and in this country. The Justice Department's continued silence also indicates a willingness to ignore the policy set out by the president in his National Drug Control Strategy.Each of us, upon becoming administrators of the Drug Enforcement Administration, took an oath of office to uphold and defend the Constitution. While we may no longer be in public service, our personal commitment to this goal and to the responsibility to uphold the law remains undiminished. It is in this spirit that we call on the Department of Justice to provide a legal position on California's ballot initiative—and to do so in advance of the November election.The writers served as administrators of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration from its inception in July 1973 through November 2007.Authors: John Bartels, Peter Bensinger, Francis Mullen, Jack Lawn, Robert Bonner, Tom Constantine, Donnie Marshall, Asa Hutchinson and Karen Tandy Source: Wall Street Journal (US)Published: October 6, 2010Copyright: 2010 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.Contact: wsj.ltrs wsj.comWebsite:  -- Cannabis Archives
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Comment #9 posted by Sinsemilla Jones on October 07, 2010 at 00:50:14 PT
"the clarity of President Obama's position..."
As I remember, he was pretty clear about favoring a public option for health care and being against requiring individuals to buy health insurance, too.What the President "unequivocally opposes" today, he might pragmatically approve of tomorrow.
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Comment #8 posted by Sinsemilla Jones on October 07, 2010 at 00:27:57 PT
Fed law trumps Arnold's "infraction" law, too
In fact, in all the states that have "decriminalized" marijuana possession, federal agents can arrest someone for possession and federal courts can give them a harsher sentence than allowed by the state.But in the several decades that states have been decriminalizing possession, no one has gotten their panties in a wad that harsher federal possession charges could "trump" these laws, and the federal government hasn't gone on a crusade to enforce the federal possession laws in decrim states.
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Comment #7 posted by Paint with light on October 06, 2010 at 18:59:15 PT
Just say nine
"......we believe that Proposition 19 to legalize marijuana in California is a grave misstep."I bet this narco nine keeps misstepping all the way to the grave.I like comment #2.Legal like alcohol.....soon.
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Comment #6 posted by kaptinemo on October 06, 2010 at 16:35:59 PT:
Verbal flatulence
As in mouth farts. As in 'raspberries'. As in what the late, great George Carlin called 'bilabial fricatives'.9 Administrators. Nine of them. Combined together, they represent over a century's worth of man-hours engaged in an abject failure. Oh, and they sucked down lots and lots of taxpayer's dollars doing so...and used those taxpayer's dollars to cause untold misery and suffering, vastly out of proportion compared to the substances they bemoan.9 failures. Nine failures. And they have the gall to show their unrepentant, unashamed faces and make such public spectacles of themselves? That's part of what's wrong in this country when such as these are allowed access to the nation's media when they should have been tarred, feathered and run out of town on a rail...while harmless people rot in prison, put there by scum like these.
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Comment #5 posted by museman on October 06, 2010 at 09:14:55 PT
Oh really?
"Each of us, upon becoming administrators of the Drug Enforcement Administration, took an oath of office to uphold and defend the Constitution."Well. First I suggest you read that oath.Secondly, since you obviously did not know to what you were 'swearing' allow me to remind you of the part of that oath that states "....against enemies foreign and DOMESTIC."Guess where your position aligns? Public enemies #1. There are a number of veterans out here who swore the same oath. Funny how we who actually did the defending see it so differently. (not counting the new cop manufacturers -Iraq and Afghanistan).If Thomas Jefferson were here, he'd be shopping for an AK47 and wondering where to find a General Washington.I'd like to remind all these frauds who cannot be trusted to keep their word on anything unless they get something for it, you've tried unsuccessfully to disarm america. We are still armed. You keep pushing on us, we will react. Just try your 'martial law' and see what happens. And we ARE DEFENDING OUR RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS GUARANTEED BY THE CONSTITUTION, as provided by our right to bear arms against just such a contingency.I personally would prefer sanity and accountability, but even though you (the false authority represented in this article) have doubled and tripled the cop presence, and they have automatic weapons, fast cars, bullet-proof vests, etc., the armed population outnumbers you about 1,000 to one or greater.Just try it you thugs.LEGALIZE FREEDOM
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Comment #4 posted by dongenero on October 06, 2010 at 08:28:44 PT
desperate measures- is that a threat?
Gee, they keep throwing more of these ding-a-lings at each successive op-ed. 9 of 'em, listed here. Collaborating on an op-ed for Rupert Murdoch.Well, it will be an interesting event if they decide to declare martial law and send troops into California to thwart Democracy and the will of the People. Good luck with that Asa, Ms. Tandy.
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Comment #3 posted by runruff on October 06, 2010 at 08:26:34 PT
Here are the criminals!
John Bartels, Peter Bensinger, Francis Mullen, Jack Lawn, Robert Bonner, Tom Constantine, Donnie Marshall, Asa Hutchinson and Karen TandyThe CSA is a complete fraud and someday I hope to see these pseudo-patriotic sociopaths in prison, like those who violated human rights at Nuremberg.DEA= Dick's-Evil-Army
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Comment #2 posted by HempWorld on October 06, 2010 at 06:28:26 PT
Legalizing Marijuana Is Not Against the US 
Constitution and UN treaties do not apply as this would render null and void US sovereignty!AND:Marijuana, Prohibition and the Tenth Amendment By Susan Shelley Sooner or later the question will have to be asked: Does the federal government have the power under the Constitution to stop cities and states from legalizing marijuana? The answer may be no. Federal law bans the possession of marijuana. But if a simple federal law can ban marijuana, why did Prohibition of alcohol require a constitutional amendment? A little history answers that question. The U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1789 to provide a framework for governing a nation composed of thirteen separate, sovereign states, each with its own state constitution and government. This was a new concept known as federalism. James Madison explained that the federal government would have only the powers delegated to it by the Constitution. Those powers would be "few and defined," he said, while the powers remaining in the state governments would be "numerous and indefinite." The states remained suspicious that the new federal government would encroach on their powers. They demanded and got ten amendments to the Constitution that specifically banned Congress from passing laws on matters that were understood to be within state control. The Tenth Amendment flatly declared, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people." In 1919, the United States enacted a national ban on the manufacture, sale or transportation of intoxicating liquors. Because the Constitution did not give the federal government the power to regulate alcohol, Prohibition required a constitutional amendment, which was approved by two-thirds of the House and two-thirds of the Senate, then ratified by the legislatures of three-quarters of the states. In 1933, the nation reconsidered. A constitutional amendment repealing Prohibition was approved by two-thirds of the House and two-thirds of the Senate, then ratified by the legislatures of three-quarters of the states. Why did the country go to all that trouble if Congress could simply have declared alcohol a "controlled substance" and made it legal or illegal with a simple majority vote and a presidential signature? If marijuana is grown, distributed and consumed within state borders, and the state government decides that under some circumstances that is not a crime, by what authority does Congress override that judgment? Why is marijuana in 2003 different than alcohol in 1919? The Supreme Court ruled recently that the federal Controlled Substances Act does not contain an exception for medical necessity. Lawyers for the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative argued that, exception or no exception, the Controlled Substances Act "exceeds Congress' Commerce Clause powers" and infringes the "fundamental liberties of the people under the Fifth, Ninth, and Tenth Amendments." The Supreme Court did not want to talk about it. "Because the Court of Appeals did not address these claims," Justice Clarence Thomas wrote, "we decline to do so in the first instance." The Court may not be able to duck the issue much longer. If the people of each state choose to decriminalize marijuana in some circumstances, the Constitution plainly reserves to them the power to do so. ---
Susan Shelley is the author of the novel The 37th Amendment, which includes an appendix on "How the First Amendment Came to Protect Topless Dancing." ---
Source notes: The Madison quotation is from Federalist No. 45, available online at; the Justice Thomas quotation is from U.S. v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative et al., 532 U.S. 483 (2001), available online at
The Madison Quotation
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Comment #1 posted by HempWorld on October 06, 2010 at 06:21:59 PT
Prohibs are getting desparate!
"Keeping drugs illegal reduces their availability and lessens willingness to use them"Sure, like marijuana currently! When a substance is declared illegal it will become a forbidden fruit and the popularity increases, hence the difference between US and Dutch marijuana use. The Dutch use of marijuana is only 1/3 of that in the US per capita.Why the prohibs do not understand such a simple emirical truth and why they are clinging to it, is a mystery to me. Unless the reason to keep drugs illegal is to use proceeds from this activity to fund the stock market, as has been the case since Nixon ruled the country. Authors of the above article do no care about democracy or voting rights they believe Obama or the supreme court can just smash this, as in a dictatorship. This is quite a chilling revelation but not one that should surprise us!
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