Pubdate: Thu, 02 Apr 2015
Source: Washington Times (DC)
Copyright: 2015 The Washington Times, LLC.
Author: Seth McLaughlin


Stay United Against Obama's Policy

Republican presidential hopefuls are united in blasting President 
Obama for his chaotic enforcement of marijuana laws, but the unity 
quickly breaks down when they are asked how they would handle things 
if they were in the White House.

Some have sent mixed signals, saying state decisions should be 
respected while questioning how Mr. Obama has respected those 
decisions. Others have refused to say how they would wield the 
federal bureaucracy against marijuana.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is one of the few potential candidates to 
take a firm stance, saying he would insist on following federal 
statutes that outlaw the drug.

"I don't think you can ignore federal law," Mr. Jindal told radio 
talk show host Hugh Hewitt, who asked whether the governor would 
"bring the hammer" down on pot stores in states with legalization 
laws. "Federal law is still the law of the land. It still needs to be 

The confusion stems from the conflict between federal law, which 
classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug on par with heroin and LSD, 
and states where pot has been legalized for medicinal use or, in a 
growing number of states, where it has been approved for recreational use.

Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have legalized 
medical marijuana. Alaska, Oregon and the District also have followed 
in the footsteps of Colorado and Washington by allowing recreational 
use of the drug. Several other states, such as California, Maine, 
Arizona and Nevada, which hosts an early presidential nomination 
contest, are heading in a similar direction.

Mr. Obama and Congress have tried to grapple with the issue. Capitol 
Hill took a first step toward leniency last year by passing a 
spending bill prohibiting federal agents from targeting medical 
marijuana dispensaries for raids, though the criminal laws remain on 
the books. The Obama administration has issued several memos laying 
out drug enforcement priorities that order agents to generally ignore 
states that are trying to legalize marijuana, saying federal law 
enforcement should focus on eight specific areas such as stopping the 
distribution of the drug to minors and fighting gangs and cartels 
that try to traffic in pot.

The president has said his actions on marijuana enforcement are 
similar to those he took on Obamacare and immigration, in which he 
claimed use of prosecutorial discretion to grant temporary amnesty to 

The administration's moves have drawn fire from Republicans who want 
to succeed Mr. Obama.

Sen. Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican who announced his candidacy last 
month, has said it is the prerogative and right of states such as 
Colorado and Washington to legalize marijuana.

But the conservative firebrand also has accused Mr. Obama of setting 
a dangerous precedent by curtailing enforcement of federal laws in 
those states.

"Anyone who is concerned about liberty should be concerned about the 
notion that this president, over and over again, has asserted the 
right to pick and choose what laws to follow. That is fundamentally 
dangerous to the liberty of the people," Mr. Cruz said last year in 
an interview with Reason, a libertarian magazine. "What rule of law 
means is that we are a nation of laws, not of men, that no man is 
above the law - especially not the president."

A spokesman for Mr. Cruz did not respond to a request seeking 
clarification on his stance, nor did representatives for former Sen. 
Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

A representative for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie declined to comment.

Paul Armentano, deputy director of the pro-legalization group NORML, 
said he suspects the Republican candidates are trapped between their 
own beliefs and those of primary voters.

"These candidates no doubt understand that the majority of Americans 
support regulatory alternatives to prohibition and are trying to 
appeal to them while, at that same time, trying to avoid agitating 
their more socially conservative base," Mr. Armentano said. "Knowing 
that marijuana legalization outpolled both presidential candidates in 
2012, these GOP hopefuls arguably ought to be more concerned with 
positioning themselves to be on the right side of history rather than 
on trying to appease a vocal minority that is woefully out of touch 
with both changing public and scientific opinion."

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush acknowledged in an interview last year 
that he is torn on the issue.

"I think that states ought to have a right to decide these things. I 
think the federal government's role in our lives is way too 
overreaching," Mr. Bush told the Miami Herald. "But having said that, 
if you're in Colorado and you can purchase marijuana openly, should 
people in Wyoming not be concerned about that? And I think there, 
maybe, the federal law needs to be looked at - interstate commerce."

Lucy Nashed, a spokeswoman for former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, said her 
boss "believes this is a decision for the states." Asked to clarify 
how Mr. Perry would use federal powers if he becomes president, Ms. 
Nashed gave the same answer.

A spokeswoman for Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida suggested he would use 
discretion in enforcing the law.

"Sen. Rubio believes legalization of marijuana for recreational use 
is a bad idea," said Rubio spokeswoman Brooke Sammon. "Of course, 
states can make decisions about what laws they wish to apply within 
their own borders, but the federal government has its own interests 
to vigorously prosecute trafficking in illegal drugs, including marijuana."

AshLee Strong, press secretary for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's Our 
American Revival political action committee, said: "There are 
currently federal laws on the books that must be enforced, but 
ultimately he believes the best place to handle this issue is in the states."

Sen. Rand Paul has been the most outspoken supporter of legalization 
among the potential presidential field, calling for reduced penalties 
for marijuana offenses and taking a lead role in a bipartisan push to 
lift federal restrictions on medical marijuana.

The Kentucky Republican has cast Mr. Bush as a hypocrite for 
admitting marijuana use while a student but opposing a medical 
marijuana ballot initiative last year in Florida, which failed to pass.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom