Monday, October 19, 2009

The right result, but reached the wrong way

"WASHINGTON – The Obama administration will not seek to arrest medical marijuana users and suppliers as long as they conform to state laws, under new policy guidelines to be sent to federal prosecutors Monday." AP Article, via Yahoo!

Federal laws banning marijuana use are counterproductive. Regardless, if a medical doctor decides a patient can be helped by marijuana, it's simply not the federal government's place to prohibit it. Physicians can prescribe all manner of painkillers and narcotics that are illegal without a prescription. Why is marijuana different?

I'm glad people won't be prosecuted for medical marijuana use. But I'm disappointed in the way it happened. If these are bad laws, why not get rid of them? Why encourage people to violate the law, with a tacit understanding that they will receive no punishment? Rather than instruct the Justice Department to ignore federal drug laws, he should have pushed Congress to repeal them.

Instead, we ended up with a power grab for the executive branch. This method substitutes the judgment of the president for the judgment of the legislature. Many observers, including Obama, didn't like it when Bush did it, and rightfully so. Although Obama thinks that he should be allowed to selectively enforce legislation, the article indicates he thinks it should be for provisions that are unconstitutional. I personally think that prohibiting medical marijuana use is unconstitutional, but Obama is not making that argument here.

Also, this puts marijuana users in a tough position. They may rely on this development, and assume they're safe to consume marijuana. But by doing so, they're still violating the law. Future administrations can always start enforcing the laws again. The next president could change course, and prosecute all the people who relied on Obama's policy.

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