Binding Little Jeff

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In some states, it is illegal to drive faster than 70 on the highway. But in Texas, you can legally drive as fast as 85 on some highways. Because the federal government no longer dictates how fast you’re allowed to drive in any state.

For about 20 years – from 1974 to 1994 – the feds did exactly that. It was called the National Maximum Speed Limit (NMSL) and informally known as Drive 55.

Everywhere.

Those of us who suffered under it remember it well.

Ostensibly, the NMSL was imposed as a fuel conservation measure but it was enforced as a saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety issue. Rates of travel that were legal – and presumably, safe – were made illegal (and unsafe) overnight, literally – by federal fiat. 

The NMSL was finally repealed in the mid-‘90s, returning to the states their prerogative under the 10th Amendment to set speed limits within their borders – which they have ever since and without the sky or anything else falling.

Similarly – and also without the sky or anything else falling – a majority of states (46, to date) have decriminalized the possession/sale/use of small amounts of marijuana by adults for personal use.

Some allow – or rather, don’t criminally prosecute – medical marijuana as a treatment for chronic pain and other things, including glaucoma. Physicians and their patients are not treated as criminal “drug abusers.”

Others go a step farther and allow recreational marijuana – on the same principle that states allow the recreational use of alcohol by adults – using the tax money generated to fund much needed infrastructure, such as road building and repair, new schools and so on.

There are also some states – such as Virginia – which have not decriminalized marijuana, whether for medical or recreational use. 

While the laws regarding marijuana vary from state to state, the principle is the same: It’s not Washington’s business to micromanage the states.

That’s why there is a 10th Amendment, which leaves such matters up to the states.

For some time, this principle has been the de facto policy of the federal government, chiefly as the result of what’s known inside the Beltway as the Rohrabacher-Blumenaeur Amendment. It prohibits the Justice Department from using any funding authorized by Congress to criminally prosecute individuals or businesses over the possession/use/sale of marijuana in states where this has been legalized – or at least, decriminalized.

The Rohrabacher-Blumenaeur Amendment was first passed back in 2014 and has been re-approved each time a new federal budget has been approved.

But in 2016, Jeff Sessions – an old-time drug warrior – became the Attorney General of the United States.

He is vociferously opposed to any decriminalization of marijuana, even for medical use and notwithstanding the proven efficacy of marijuana for the treatment of chronic pain, glaucoma and other serious ailments.

Sessions has made no secret of his desire to quash the Rohrabacher-Blumenaeur Amendment and the worry – among those who favor leaving this matter to the states and better yet, to the individuals concerned –  – is that each year, there is a chance the Rohrabacher-Blumenaeur Amendment won’t be re-approved. If that ever happens, the attorney general (Sessions or otherwise) will then have the means at his disposal to resume prosecutions under the federal Controlled Substances Act – overruling the expressed will of the people in the 46 states that have decided to stop dealing with marijuana as a criminal matter.

To assure that does not happen, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have joined together to make permanent the leaving of this matter to the individual states, as per the 10th Amendment and the principle of federalism it articulates. They include Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado and Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who are co-sponsors of the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act (PDF of the Senate version is here).

The House version is co-sponsored by Reps. David Joyce (R-Ohio) and Earl Blumenaeur (D. Ore) who co-sponsored the earlier Rohrabacher-Blumenaeur Amendment.

The legislation would go farther than the stop-gap Rohrabacher-Blumenaeur Amendment by formally amending the federal Controlled Substances Act to disallow criminal prosecutions by the DOJ in states that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana. Put another way, it would no longer matter whether the DOJ has the financial resources to pursue criminal prosecutions under the CSA.

It would no longer have the legal authority to do so.

State laws would be respected, in keeping with the principle of federalism the 10th Amendment was specifically written to protect. People and businesses engaged in legal activities within their states would no longer have to fear federal SWATTing, a recurrent worry with Sessions champing at the bit and restrained only by lack of funding. 

It’s ironic that Sessions – a Southerner and (ostensibly) a conservative Republican – is pursuing an agenda so contrary to the 10th Amendment, states rights – and the publicly expressed views of the president who appointed him. Donald Trump has repeatedly said he favors leaving this matter to the states.

The STATES Act would do exactly that – permanently.

Little Jeff must be steaming!

. . .

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16 COMMENTS

  1. I’m in favor of anything that reduces the fedcoat’s influence and power.

    But I do have to wonder…

    Inhaling the smoke from a tiny amount of smoldering plant matter (pot) on one hand is progressive and hip and “with it” and is (happily) used to knock down government power structures.

    On the other hand, inhaling the smoke from a tiny amount of smoldering plant matter (tobacco), and you are worse than Hitler.

    What gives?

    Are pot smokers going to find themselves “barely legal” in twenty years?

    Taxed 300 and 400 percent for their “sin”?

    Hounded and harassed by mad mothers?

    Something’s fishy here…government doesn’t give up power this easily, nor does it recognize the 10th Amendment for anything unless it benefits them somehow.

    • Hi AF,

      They want the revenue, of course. The good news is that if they decriminalize growing/selling/possession/use, it’s easy enough to grow your own and end-run the high cost at “approved” stores.

      But the bad news is they will nail you for “bootlegging” or tax evasion.

      • When I lived in Vancouver Canada during the 90’s and 00’s, no one bothered a person at a concert smoking a joint, and there were many. Light a cigarette though, and security would muscle through the crowd hunting down the miscreant – after fondling your girlfriend on the way in to the show.
        $500 fine in B.C. for smoking on the beach, or in almost any place where someone complains (such as your own balcony).
        The control freaks are jumping for joy over a new vice to regulate, tax, control… and punish.

  2. At some point in time (before 2014, I guess?) the feds under Obama came in and arrested every registered medical MJ user and provider in Montana. Under Bush they had been left alone. You never can tell….

    Fed law still prohibits MJ users from owning/buying guns.

    You never get everything you want or expect from politics.

  3. I’m wondering whether, if Hillary came under suspicion of smoking pot, would Jeff recuse himself from the investigation?

  4. When I mention all the pot shops in my town to my family back east I get a reaction something akin to “tisk-tisk.” Followed by some high-horse morals about how it encourages “kids” to use pot, or that driving under the influence is a problem, whatever they recently heard on the mainstream talking box. I usually counter with the fact that the refer is so expensive that parents are going to keep it locked up so their kids don’t smoke up their stash. And the fact that a fair amount of the sales are for things like arthritis cream. If they persist I just point out that kids really don’t want pot now that hippie grandad is a regular user.

    Parachute, which has a population of about 1100 people and 7 pot shops, is putting the finishing touches on a nice new (extremely steep, better have a V8) river boat launch, paid for with pot taxes. That tax revenue seems to come from Utah tourists and Grand Junction, judging by the license plates in the parking lots. Before this new revenue source the town’s fortune followed the whims of the natural gas market. As long as Utah and Grand Junction keep pot illegal (which, given the moral climate of both places is highly likely), it will be good for Parachute.

    BTW, crime is down in the state, pot use among kids is down, tax revenue is up, oppression is down. Sounds like a Republican dream, right? Or maybe a Republican trying to get elected’s dream. Once their in office, well, that’s a different story.

    • Wow, the autocorrect is way off the mark today! Sorry about not proofreading first.

      refer==reefer, their==they’re

    • I stayed at a hotel in Parachute last year overlooking the drive through dispensary. The next morning while getting fuel I could smell the sweet bud from the Tumbleweed Dispensary a block away.

      Beautiful area and scenery, and more power to them for taking advantage of Colorado laws and bettering their town.

      On a side note, is there any better drive in the USA than I-70 through Colorado? I don’t think there is.

  5. Only a tiny step in the right direction (given that it even passes). A better bill would just say “No law shall be passed by Congress that denies the Individual States their rights under the 10th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.” Of course, we know how long that would last before the current robed dictators in the SC.

    Too bad a few governors didn’t have the balls to refuse to send their National Guard to Korea in the ’40s and Vietnam in the ’60s. We need more nullification of that sort, too.

    • State elections are run by the two parties. If you don’t toe the line in the local elections you’ll never get to move up in the party. Once you get a taste of power it seems it becomes addicting (which isn’t the case for devil weed). And like most addicted brains they develop a tolerance for power, thus requiring ever greater amounts, everything else be damned.

      • No need to remind me of that. Unfortunately, that little man featured in the article is from my home state. I just hope if he gets fired, he won’t come home. At least he is no longer in the senate.

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