Three states’ ballot initiatives might legalize the recreational use of marijuana this year. To the displeasure of some current and former drug warriors, the Obama Department of Justice is silent on the matter.
Those urging the feds to weigh in, unfortunately, rest their case on some bad reasoning:
- Peter Bensinger, DEA administrator under Jimmy Carter: “Federal law, the U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court decisions say that this cannot be done because federal law preempts state law.”
- Tom Gorman, director of the federal Rocky Mountain High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area: “It’s illegal for a state to pass a constitutional measure that allows its citizens to violate federal law.”
But their claim is just not true. Here’s why. Let’s say the feds have a law banning the use of sugar in iced tea. An example of a state law that conflicts with this federal law would be one that requires the use of sugar in iced tea, not a state law that simply permits the use of sugar. A failure to adopt a law that prohibits the same thing the feds prohibit is simply not a conflict.
Another reason the Justice Department may be silent on these state ballot initiatives? President Obama is less popular nationwide than marijuana legalization.