Civil Cold War: The Oncoming State-Federal Marijuana Battle

Photo by Vortex Farmacy

The Trump administration’s spokesperson Sean Spicer has recently signaled that it will abide by the Congressional spending rider that prevents federal interference in the states that have legalized the medical use of marijuana. However, it has also made clear that recreational marijuana is very different than medical marijuana and that we could see more federal enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act in that regard.

Funny how the Trump administration can suggest that whether transgender kids can use the school restroom matching their gender identity is an issue North Carolina ought to decide, but eight states whose populations have voted to legalize the adult use of marijuana need the federal government’s corrective meddling, ain’t it?

Or like how the Obama administration overruled Arizona’s attempts to crack down on illegal immigration in favor of enforcing federal law, but then, four states whose populations had voted to legalize the adult use of marijuana should be left free from the federal government’s corrective meddling, huh?

States’ rights… so long as the White House agrees with your state, I suppose.

States’ rights used to be a battle cry from the right as it sought to maintain state policies out of step with federal laws on reproductive rights, segregation and taxation, to name a few.

Now, states’ rights may become a battle cry from the left seeking to maintain state policies on marijuana legalization, immigration and LGBT rights against a hostile administration in Washington.

California is leading the way in this new Civil Cold War. While much of the state is covered by cities and counties known as “sanctuary cities” for their ban on local law enforcement assisting federal immigration authorities, there is a bill pending now to extend that protection of immigrants to the entire state, banning state authorities’ cooperation with immigration forces as well.

Now, California is proposing a similar bill creating a de facto marijuana sanctuary state.

“This bill would prohibit a state or local agency, as defined, from taking certain actions without a court order signed by a judge,” according to the Assembly’s Legislative Counsel, “including using agency money, facilities, property, equipment, or personnel to assist a federal agency to investigate, detain, detect, report, or arrest a person for commercial or noncommercial marijuana or medical cannabis activity that is authorized by law in the State of California and transferring an individual to federal law enforcement authorities for purposes of marijuana enforcement.”

The penultimate authority in California, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, was a leading proponent of marijuana legalization in the Golden State. He has penned a letter to President Trump and Attorney General Sessions, expressing his objections to threats of federal interference in the state’s adult-use marijuana program.

The other legal states are gearing up for the Civil Cold War as well.

Colorado’s Governor Hickenlooper has indicated that he’s ready to defend his state’s constitutional marijuana rights. Washington’s Governor Inslee and Attorney General Ferguson also wrote a letter condemning the Trump administration’s saber-rattling on marijuana enforcement. Oregon’s Attorney General Rosenblum vowed to protect her state’s legalization programs. Nevada’s Senate Majority Leader Ford has urged his state’s attorney general to defend legalization. Maine’s Attorney General Mills has called potential federal interference with their legalization “unwise.” Massachusetts’ governor’s office has indicated it will “move forward” with their new legalization law. A spokeswoman for Alaska’s Department of Law has said that her state’s marijuana laws “wouldn’t be overturned.”

At the federal level, the newly-formed Congressional Cannabis Caucus has condemned the threat to their states’ marijuana laws.

Oregon’s Senators Merkley and Wyden and Congressman Blumenauer have all objected to Spicer’s comments. California’s Rep. Barbara Lee has vowed to fight “loudly” against federal marijuana interference in Congress. Vermont’s Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted that, “We should be moving toward decriminalization of marijuana, not reverting progress that states have made.”

The local papers in the legal states are rejecting Spicer’s rhetoric as well.

Maine’s Portland Press-Herald wrote that, “States like Maine that have legalized marijuana should fight this kind of federal overreach.” The Seattle Times wrote that, “Trump should read the will of the people and let the states continue to be the laboratories of democracy.” The Denver Post opined, “An abrupt change from the status quo would do far more harm than good.”

As NORML has threatened, if it’s a fight they want, it’s a fight they’ll get.

Except now, our side has the support of the media, 60 percent of the American people, attorneys general in eight states and maybe the funding from a nascent marijuana industry awakened to the reality that they need to invest in non-profit marijuana reform activism if they hope to expand their business.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts
Read More

Leaders in Dallas, Texas Pursue Cannabis Decriminalization

Amidst other cities that have already passed cannabis decriminalization in Texas, the city council in Dallas is working on its own initiative to prevent police from arresting people with four ounces of cannabis or less.