Pubdate: Mon, 28 Mar 2016
Source: New York Post (NY)
Copyright: 2016 N.Y.P. Holdings, Inc.
Author: Timothy Lynch
Note: Timothy Lynch is director of the Cato Institute's Project on 
Criminal Justice.


The Supreme Court has handed the marijuana-legalization movement an 
important victory.

Two states - Nebraska and Oklahoma - sought to invalidate the 
landmark Colorado measure known as Amendment 64, which legalized 
recreational marijuana in that state. But the challenge fell flat 
when the Court announced last week that it wouldn't hear their case.

That means the Colorado law will remain in effect - and more states 
can opt to legalize also.

No one can deny the gathering momentum behind the legalization 
movement. Since 2012, four states have approved referenda that 
essentially legalize marijuana for recreational purposes:

Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska. (Washington, DC, has 
embraced legal marijuana also.) At least five more states will be 
voting on pot in November: California, Nevada, Massachusetts, Arizona 
and Maine.

Drug reformers have several reasons to be optimistic about their 
prospects. First, according to a recent Gallup poll, 58 percent of 
Americans say marijuana should be legal. And that number has been 
climbing steadily - majority support for the third consecutive year.

Second, young people overwhelmingly support marijuana legalization - 
and they turn out to vote when there's a presidential election.

Third, older voters are more supportive than they have been in the past.

Like it or not, more and more Americans regard adult marijuana use as 
something akin to gambling on the NCAA tournament - it may be 
illegal, but it shouldn't be. Some adults like to relax with a beer 
or a glass of wine, but others prefer to relax with a marijuana 
cigarette. It's just not a big deal to them.

Of course, not everyone agrees. Supporters of the war on drugs have 
been watching the marijuana-legalization movement with alarm. They 
keep saying it's "dangerous," but fewer and fewer people seem to agree.

Facing losses at the ballot box, the warriors took their objections 
to court. Ever since the initial, pivotal measures passed in Colorado 
and Washington in 2012, there have been voices saying that those 
state laws would never hold up against a legal challenge because 
federal law criminalizes marijuana possession and federal law is 
supreme when there's a conflict with state law.

At first, the Obama Justice Department was widely expected to bring a 
legal challenge in court. But that never happened, so the state 
attorneys general in Nebraska and Oklahoma brought their own case to 
the Supreme Court.

Even though the Supreme Court declined to hear the dispute, the legal 
challenge was weak and would have likely failed anyway. Federal 
agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration can still make 
marijuana arrests in Colorado if they choose to do so. The Colorado 
law makes no attempt to nullify federal law - so there is no 
"conflict." Amendment 64 basically says that Colorado police are no 
longer going after adults who buy and use marijuana.

Under the principle of federalism, states can decide for themselves 
what they want their police to focus on. The Supreme Court has made 
it clear that state and local police can't be commandeered by federal 

Drug reformers have history on their side. Alcohol prohibition was a 
disastrous policy that created more problems than it solved. It began 
to unravel when New York state repealed its local Volstead Act 
prohibiting liquor sales. Other states followed, and prohibition 
eventually fell by the wayside.

The same thing is starting to happen with marijuana. Thus far, 
reformers have been successful with the ballot-initiative process, 
but now even state legislatures are moving. This year, the general 
assembly in Vermont approved a marijuana-legalization bill. That's 
another indication that the political climate is shifting toward reform.

It's fair to say that many Americans have adopted an attitude of 
"Let's see how this experiment with marijuana sales works out in 
Colorado." That's a prudent position to take. Drug reformers are 
confident things will continue to proceed smoothly there. And the 
Supreme Court just bought the marijuana movement more time to allay 
the fears of skeptics.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom