By Eric Peters
Without consent, what have you got?
The Constitution articulates the principle of consent – that “the people” agree to its terms and conditions – to be governed by it – and that without their consent, the government has no legitimate claim to govern them.
This is the principle at the bottom of the debate over medical marijuana – as well as the debate over recreational marijuana. If the people of a state consent to it, by what right does the federal government oppose it?
And it’s actually just one Fed – the attorney general of the United States, Jeff Sessions. He has personally decided to hurl thunderbolts and lightening at any state which dares to abide by the will of its people by decriminalizing the possession, sale and use of marijuana – whether for medical or recreational purposes. He has decreed that he – personally – will send federal hellhounds to prosecute those who legally – insofar as the laws of their state are concerned – defy his personal anti-pot animus.
But, he needs the funds to do so.
Mao was wrong. Power does not flow from the barrel of a gun. It emanates from the pockets of those with the money to buy the guns.
Take away the money and – effectively – you take away the guns.
That’s what Libertarian leaning Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California did back in 2014, when he put a rider in a funding bill that prohibits the DOJ’s inspector Javerts from going after marijuana users and sellers in states that have legalized the same – by denying them the funds to jihad.
Cue the angry ululations from Sessions. He is stomping his feet, demanding that the funding restriction be rescinded. He believes in the consent of the governed as much as another Republican – Abe Lincoln did.
And like Abe, he is determined to use force to impose his will upon those who do not consent.
But what gives the attorney general – or any other person – the moral right to deny consenting adults access to marijuana for medical or any other reason?
That Sessions does not personally like marijuana – and chooses not to use it himself, for health or any other reason – is certainly his right. There are people who feel the same way about alcohol – but these lack the power to impose their arbitrary preferences on others .
They did, of course, once possess it.
For about 13 years – from 1920 to 1933 – there was a federal ban on the manufacture, possession and consumption of alcohol. This was Prohibition – and it was a disaster for the country in addition to an insufferable affront to the founding principles of the country. A minority of zealots traduced the will of the people and criminalized personal choices which, as such, imposed no harm on any other person.
The Prohibition of alcohol was regarded with contempt from its inception and flagrantly ignored. It is an axiom of common sense that any law which most people contemptuously disobey and – more to the point – which they do not fault others for disobeying – can be safely assumed to be a stupid and even evil law.
Such laws turn legitimate law on its head – transforming people who are’t criminals in the moral sense (i.e., people who hurt others by their actions) into technical foulcriminals – while turning the government into a criminal enterprise.
One which – in our time – seizes people’s property without even formal charges being filed, let alone convictions obtained – solely on the basis of an assertion by law enforcement that an “excessive” amount cash was found in a person’s possession; this is presumptively considered illicit “drug” money.
One which puts tens of thousands of people in manacles ad cages every year, for nothing more than possessing – or using or selling – a plant.
The only thing missing is a gaggle of demented harpies singing Onward Christian Soldiers.
The people of 29 states – so far – have had enough of this. Have passed laws decriminalizing the use, possession and sale of marijuana. Their actions are constitutional in both the moral as well as the legal sense of that document. The people are supposed to be the final arbiter of government – of what is and is not permissible.
President Trump, who is no Libertarian, agrees with this principle. “I really believe we should leave it up to the states,” he has said on several occasions.
Which means, leave it up to the people of the states.
This however puts him at odds with his ululating attorney general, who is pushing hard for the elimination of the 2014 law which denies the DOJ funds to pursue federal-level prosecutions of marijuana users in states which allow it. Sessions justifies his demands for federal usurpation by arguing that there is “an historic drug epidemic and a potentially long-term uptick in violent crime.”
This, of course, is nonsense.
Sessions cannot point to any “epidemic” in violent crime – current, let alone projected – that can be laid at the feet of medical or recreational marijuana, except insofar as use/possession/manufacture have themselves been criminalized. Which is exactly of a piece with the 1920s-era criminalization of the use/possession/manufacture of alcohol.
It amounts to the manufacture of “crime” in keeping with the dictum of Stalin’s enforcer, Lavrenty Beria.
If the argument is that because some people abuse marijuana, get high and drive or steal to support their habit, etc. – those arguments apply several-fold to alcohol. People who use alcohol responsibly, without harming anyone else, are no longer treated as criminals. Why should people who responsibly use marijuana be treated as if they were? By what logic?
And by what right?
Trump was elected over the harridan Hillary because – his flaws conceded – he better represented the people, who voted for him rather than his crazy eyes opponent. The people voted for Trump because he promised to do what the peoplewanted. Not a handful of arrogant bureaucrats in Washington – acting contrary to the will of the people.
The idea that the will of a single man – Sessions – should trump the will of the people is obnoxious as well as contrary to everything the Constitution is supposed to be about.
When Trump signed the omnibus spending bill that funded the government last summer, he stated: “Division B, section 537 provides that the Department of Justice may not use any funds to prevent implementation of medical marijuana laws by various States and territories. I will treat this provision consistently with my constitutional responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”
On this issue, at least, the president gets it. As opposed to his AG, who seems to think it’s 1920 – and that America should be governed not in accordance with the will of the people but from the top down by unelected “czars” such as himself.
Eric Peters is the automotive columnist for the Southern Arizona News-Examiner. He also writes about politics.
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