Pubdate: Mon, 19 Nov 2012
Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch (VA)
Copyright: 2012 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC.
Author: David Sirota
Page: 9


DENVER - What's next? Amid all the munchie-themed jokes from
reporters, political elites and late-night comedians, this remains the
overarching question after Coloradans voted overwhelmingly to
legalize, regulate and tax marijuana in the same way alcohol is
already legalized, regulated and taxed. Since those anti-DrugWar
principles are now enshrined in Colorado's constitution, only the feds
can stop this Rocky Mountain state - if they so choose. But will they?
And should they even be able to?

The answer to the former is maybe. Barack Obama campaigned for
president pledging to respect state marijuana laws but his Justice
Department has been authorizing federal crackdowns. Now, with the
results of the 2012 election, Colorado's Democratic Gov. John
Hickenlooper has been forced into the awkward position of fighting off
the feds in defense of a state constitutional amendment he tried to

Because of Hickenlooper's cynical contradictions - the beer mogul
opposed pot legalization after making millions selling the more
hazardous drug called alcohol - he is not trusted by drug policy
reformers. That distrust only intensified when Hickenlooper reacted to
the ballot measure's passage with an infantile attempt at comedy.

"Don't break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly," he

Not surprisingly, proponents of the pot initiative, which passed with
more votes than either Obama or Hickenlooper have ever received in
Colorado, weren't laughing. They suspect Hickenlooper's recent
consultations with the Obama administration over the new law are a
devious concession. Specifically, they argue that Hickenlooper even
asking the White House for permission to proceed - rather than simply
moving forward on behalf of his state's voters - could be an attempt
to solidify the precedent of federal preemption before courts cite the
10th Amendment to invalidate that authority.

Of course, before the judiciary steps in, the federal Drug Enforcement
Agency will cite the 1970 Controlled Substances Act to do whatever it
wants. That gets to the second issue of "should" - should that
statutory power exist anymore? It's a pressing question that a new
Democratic proposal could force Congress to confront.

As the Colorado Independent reports, while Hickenlooper cracks
frat-boy jokes, Colorado's "three Democratic U.S. House members are
drafting legislation ... that would exempt states where pot has been
legalized from the Controlled Substances Act."

So far, President Obama hasn't taken a position on the bill. However,
a White House citizens' petition supporting the measure could force
his hand. In just days, it has garnered the necessary number of
signatures to officially require a presidential response (you can sign
it at Signatures are no doubt piling up because
the initiative presents a straightforward path to success.

Politically, it would allow drug warriors to support a states' rights
position on narcotics policy while avoiding an explicit stand in
support of marijuana use. At the same time, it would short circuit a
jurisdictional fight between states and Washington, D.C.

Such a skirmish would not merely be expensive and pointless - it would
also be lengthy, meaning billions more taxpayer dollars wasted on a
failed prohibitionist policy, and worse, more innocent Americans
punished for the "crime" of smoking a joint.

That's not funny - no matter how many politicians, comedians and
reporters try to tell you otherwise.
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