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The PJ Tatler

Bridget Johnson


September 4, 2013 - 3:46 pm

A Colorado Republican is asking the Justice Department if its decision not to challenge the implementation of marijuana legalization in his home state and Washington state means other federal laws will be undermined as well.

Federal prosecutors were advised last month in a DOJ memo to steer resources away from enforcing federal pot laws on the expectation that state and local authorities in the affected states will handle enforcement and keep the newly legal drug out of the hands of minors.

If the states fail to do this, or other violations aren’t dealt with such as cartels reaping revenue from sales or growing on public land, then the feds reserve the right to step in.

“I write to question the Department’s constitutional authority on overriding federal law and seek answers as to whether this action sets precedent to allow states to opt out of other federal laws,” Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) wrote in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder.

“While I commend the DOJ for finally issuing guidance after nearly ten months since Colorado voters legalized marijuana’s recreation use, its new policies are in contrast to the Controlled Substances Act. Essentially, DOJ policy now allows states like Colorado to opt out of federal marijuana laws. Do you believe the DOJ has the authority to override federal law? Do you believe you have the authority to change law without the approval of Congress?” Gardner continued.

Gardner wrote President Obama in June, asking him to explain the administration’s unilateral actions in several areas including not upholding federal drug laws.

“I have yet to receive a response, and I still question the constitutionality of this administration overriding federal law,” the congressman said.

“The new DOJ policies seem to imply that federal authorities will not preempt state laws. Does this set a precedent for other areas? For example, several states have passed laws to opt out of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, yet the federal government has consistently said it will take over health insurance industries regardless of states that contest the law,” he added. “If you do not agree that there is a precedent set, would you explain the inconsistencies of why in certain areas federal law may be deemed irrelevant, but not in others?”

Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.

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All Comments   (5)
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Where did congress get authority to ban drugs in the first place?

I'm against legalization - but there is a principle embodied in the 9th and 10th amendments that state that the federal government is given only enumerated powers and that all other powers remain vested with the people and the state governments.

Under that logic, a state can outlaw certain drugs - but the federal government cannot unless it involves interstate transactions. The problem there is that the SCOTUS has twisted the interstate commerce clause well beyond what was originally intended when it was written into the Constitution.

Don't even get me started on Obamacare!

There are multiple issues here that need to be set right, but I have no confidence that either the Republicans in congress nor the administration will do what is right and abide by both the letter and the spirit of the Constitution.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I wonder if it has occurred to Holder that by ignoring Federal law in view of state marijuana laws, that he is weakening his arguments against state nullification of other Federal laws such as gun control?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Obamacare? The creep Consumer Financial Protection Racket?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
If the Department of Justice only has to enforce the laws it currently favors, nobody in America is safe. If laws on the books are unenforceable or should not be enforced, let us do away with them. The cowardly way of only enforcing those that appeal to the Democrats' political base is the road to tyranny. What's next, writs of attainder for anyone not in political favor? If the Constitution is just a vague suggestion, why could that not happen?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I'll say that while ultimately I think marijuana should be decriminalized (legalized is... tbd after decriminalization), this is the wrong way to do it. Giving waivers. Promising not to go after them. It takes on more discretionary power for the executive branch. It makes Congressional laws meaningless, and devolves to rule by fiat.

It's tyrannical. Ass-backwards as that is, Holder not going after the States is Tyrannical. Perhaps there shouldn't have been a federal ban in the first place. Perhaps it should have been left up to the states. But that is for Congress to decide. That's for Congress to realize that it's sticking its nose where it shouldn't, and they have a lot of Angry Coloradans and Washingtonians to contend with because of it.

This whole situation demeans our government of checks, balances, Federalism, and the respect of law.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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