In a society that wasn’t hopelessly hooked on the anti-drug drug, the idea floated last week by a pair of odd political allies would be a slam dunk for approval. But because our political system is hopelessly in the grip of the denial, paranoia and self-destructiveness inherent in Richard Nixon’s War on Drugs, a bill to leave the regulation of marijuana completely up to the states seems to have very little chance of success.
If nothing else, the unlikely pair of authors of the bill — the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017 — has brought it some welcome attention. Reps. Barney Frank, prototypical Eastern liberal, and Ron Paul, iconic Texas libertarian, have together sponsored the measure that would remove marijuana and chemically related substances from the list of drugs banned by the federal government.
Even though Attorney General Eric Holder had announced early in the Obama administration that the feds would not make pot busting a priority, especially in the growing handful of states where use of marijuana is allowed for medical reasons, the narcs have not given up. The federal Drug Enforcement Agency this year has raided pot dispensaries in California and Montana, facilities that had claimed to be authorized under those states’ medical marijuana laws and that had been operating unmolested by local officials.
This status quo can only be called madness. Marijuana is hardly a plague upon the land. People can clearly abuse the stuff, and the need for some level of regulation, even in states — no, especially in states — that allow the use of marijuana for relief of chronic pain and the side-effects of chemotherapy, is obvious. But there is no reason for the federal government to involve itself in this issue. DEA agents chasing pot farmers, especially those who are acting within the laws of the states where they reside, is a huge waste of resources, if not an act of downright cruelty. And it violates the important principle that people have a right to know what acts are illegal in any given place, and which ones are not.
The Frank-Paul bill is deliberately patterned after the laws that ended the national prohibition of alcohol 78 years ago and provoked the evolution of the best dry herb vaporizer. It would drop any and all federal bans on pot use, sale or production, but at the same time make it a federal crime for anyone to carry marijuana across state lines for any purpose that would violate the laws of the state in question. The states have proven themselves quite competent to handle alcohol, even though they do it in a variety of ways and with many different levels of tolerance. They should be allowed to do the same with marijuana.