Marijuana and the Rule of Law

Repeal the law. Don't ignore the law. To ignore the law is to put the rule of man over the rule of law.

We are supposedly a nation of laws, not men, but our lawmakers have ensured over the years that we are increasingly at the whim of men, elected or appointed, instead of the law. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has declared that he will reverse an Obama Administration position allowing states to decide on marijuana legalization. Now, local United States Attorneys will be empowered to decide.

But neither the Obama Administration nor Jeff Sessions should do anything other than enforce the law and federal law criminalizes marijuana. The solution here is not to ignore the federal law, but to repeal it. To do otherwise empowers individuals beyond the rule of law and puts the whims of officials ahead of the will of the people.

Near where I live a local police officer pulled over a man for the audacious offense of driving while eating. There was no complaint and there was no evidence that the man was distracted in his driving. But the young police officer decided to use the distracted driving charge to ticket the man, whose local officials eventually threw out the citation. We live in an age where there are more and more complaints of overzealous police officers and overzealous cities nickel and diming the citizenry on old laws.

It is, I am told, against the law in Cleveland, OH to sneeze outdoors. If a police officer wanted to, he could ticket you for sneezing and the burden would be on you to fight the citation. The correct remedy is to repeal a stupid law. Again, as long as the law is on the books it allows a bureaucrat or politician to have extraordinary and capricious control over your life. It allows politicians to change their minds and reverse other policies. It puts men ahead of the law. And our Congress is notoriously good at passing laws then abdicating their constitutional responsibilities to bureaucrats who they can blame at election time.

You may think there is nothing wrong with legalized marijuana. All but three states now have some form of legalized medical marijuana and several states now have legalized recreational marijuana. California is the latest and also a case study in the legalization of marijuana as a new form of revenue and regulation.

Regardless, as long as a federal law is on the books making marijuana possession a criminal act, a bureaucrat in Washington can wipe out the market and a thriving industry. You can scream all you want that they should not do it, but they can and the only thing in life more certain than even death and taxes is that a bureaucrat will act arbitrarily and capriciously when the mood strikes.

This, though, is the logical outcome of the federal government stepping into​ the criminal law field, something our founders would be appalled by. Tough on crime politicians run for federal office insisting they will make federal criminal laws and the result is placing people in situations where they can be prosecuted under a state law, then have a federal prosecutor prosecute them for the same thing when a U.S. Attorney seeks to build his name for his own run for office. No, it is not double jeopardy because the federal government and state governments are separate entities. Ironically, many of the tough on crime politicians getting elected to expand the federal criminal law are also Republican politicians who claim to want to return power to the states.

​When John F. Kennedy was assassinated there was no federal law criminalizing the assassination of a President. Only in 1965 did Congress act. Now we have a federal crime for virtually anything you can think of and federal bureaucrats with their own SWAT teams to enforce not just criminal laws, but bureaucratic regulations.

Congress should scuttle most of the federal criminal law in an effort to restore the balance of power to the states. I am indifferent on marijuana legalization, but many states are not and Congress should let the system and rule of law work instead of undermining the rule of law by empowering the arbitrariness and capriciousness of men.

@GTJohn I have to take issue with the statement "Every action taken by government should be looked at as will it help or hurt our country". The first step in any government action is does the government have the authority and is that action Constitutional. Only after it passes those tests, can an action be weighted as to its effects on the citizenry (obvious exception to that is a new Constitutional Amendment). Maybe you didn't mean the statement that way, but it is important to never forget that the government is constrained by the Constitution, not its ability as a do-gooder. As the old saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. There are many actions government can take that will help the country, but we also have to ask what the cost is? Unlimited domestic spying will help keep us safe, but it is unconstitutional and also has dangerous long term consequences to freedom and liberty that are not worth the cost.


As to marijuana, the federal government should not be in the business one way or the other. I oppose legalizing recreational and "headache" marijuana, but the federal government should repeal all laws against it and leave it up to the states. If California thinks they should legalize it, it is none of the rest of our business. The federal government should repeal almost all of the criminal statutes as Erick suggested. We need to return the power to the people, or at least to lower levels of government. If you want to shrink the size and power of the federal government, the only way to do that is to make them quit doing a lot of things. Tinkering at the edges of "waste, fraud and abuse" and "efficiency" will never get anywhere significant.


etbass, you are correct. I made the assumption that all the actions taken by government would be Constitutional and I know better. As a matter of fact, once long ago, a Congressman was asked about the laws passed by Congress and he admitted that most of them would not pass the Constitutional muster but they were never challenged so we have the mess we have today with all the bureaucrats and laws that step all over us. I won't start on the things that should be declared unConstitutional - the list is way too long.

How insane the push for drug legalization! Our largely Christian and vastly more educated and wiser Founders would have been appalled at such godless & ignorant & bigoted lawlessness sadly manifesting a national suicidal impetus against which godlessness they sternly warned us, knowing and declaring that without God as central all was lost. Today's foolish chronological snobbery delusionally opines that just because we live later in time we are wiser and more understanding, useful idiocy at which no one who is truly educated and in the right mind would fail to laugh hysterically.

The problem with the Marijuana issue is that both sides are trying to make some sort of arbitrary statement, where neither is being reasonable. Should anyone face jail time for possessing a personal-use amount of marijuana? Absolutely not. Should anyone be able to open a storefront selling it publicly? Absolutely not. The federal government should have decriminalized personal use a long time ago. If they had, states wouldn't have felt the urge to pass laws making the whole thing legal, since users wouldn't be at any risk. Now the feds are up against a wall, because changing the laws would defacto endorse the batcrap crazy idea of retail marijuana operations.

@JonH so are you, in states where pot is legal, advocating state-run marijuana stores alongside state-run liquor stores? Or one-stop sin bins, with alcohol and wacky tobacky sold side-by-side?

@rjfxvii im not advocating for either. I think personal use and possession should be fully decriminalized, but sale and distribution should remain federally illegal. The same way I believe abortion should be illegal to provide, but that we shouldn’t be prosecuting women if they find someone to provide it. Focusing on the seller will save taxpayers billions in trial and prison costs, while keeping people out of jail for what amounts to a victimless crime- without increasing the supply available.

I have to agree with etbass and Erick on this. The federal government shouldn't be in the business of good intentions, like they have been for decades. Pot is an issue that should be taken up by the states, only, and the issue should not be taken up by the states for purely revenue reasons, either, over anything, other than business taxes. No government should be in the business of passing legality of anything for revenue, but should be viewed as how something affects individual safety, which means everyone's safety. The job site and driving is where pot infringes most on safety. What someone does in the privacy in their own home is none of the government's business. Let the states deal with it! Repeal laws like this at the federal level.

Great points, Erick, especially about archaic laws. We have vast Federal overreach. Marijuana legalization should be a state issue, along with taxation and a myriad of other things...

I have no problem with an administration refusing to enforce a law that has been wrongly found constitutional. In my view regulation of drug use is outside the legitimate power of the Federal government, so any laws and regulation of drugs by federal officials are similarly illegitimate and not binding on states that choose to regulate them otherwise or even fully legalize them.