It was easy to miss this one,
baking the haze basking in the glow of Colorado’s (so far) successful experiment with pot legalization, but Jacob Sullum has got you covered:
Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee yesterday, Attorney General Eric Holder was grilled once again about his response to marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington. He correctly responded that the Justice Department has “a vast amount of discretion” in deciding how to enforce the Controlled Substances Act and argued that his decision to focus on eight “federal enforcement priorities” in states that have legalized marijuana for medical or general use is “consistent with the aims of the statute.” Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.) was not buying it. “Federal law takes precedence” over state law, Smith said. “The state of Colorado is undermining…federal law, correct? Why do you fail to enforce the laws of the land?”
This is the position that many Republicans, despite their supposed belief in federalism, have staked out with respect to the crumbling of pot prohibition. They not only accept the fanciful notion, which is no less absurd for having been endorsed by the Supreme Court, that interstate commerce includes marijuana that never crosses state lines, down to a plant in a cancer patient’s yard or a bag of buds in her dresser drawer. They also argue, as Smith does, that “state law conflicts with federal law” if it does not punish everything that Congress decides to treat as a crime. Hence the feds must step into the gap, raiding and busting state-licensed marijuana growers and sellers. According to Smith (and Ted Cruz, among others), Holder is obligated to crush the experiments in Colorado and Washington.
It’s disappointing to see Cruz among the statists on this one, unwilling to even permit any sort of state-level experimenting. There’s a battle coming between the Cruz and Paul factions of the grassroots/Tea party wing of the GOP, and it’s going to be bruising.