Monday, October 19, 2009

Marijuana Decriminalization

From the AP:

Federal drug agents won't pursue pot-smoking patients or their sanctioned suppliers in states that allow medical marijuana, under new legal guidelines to be issued Monday by the Obama administration.

On the one hand, this is a just and humane policy. Smokable marijuana is, by all accounts, unique in its ability to quell the nausea of cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.

On the other hand . . . the law is what it is. I would feel much better if this restraint was the product of an act of Congress. But instead, the Obama administration has unilaterally declared that it will not enforce the law as written. This strikes me as almost as much as a power grab by the executive branch as would be the decision to enforce a law in way that Congress never intended.


Matthew said...

The refusal to enforce legislation is far less objectionable than the checks-and-balances-violating practice of executive orders. One could argue that an executive refusal to execute is an important tool to maintain the constitutional separation of powers.

Burke said...

Certainly prosecutorial discretion is a facet of the separation of powers. But my impression is that the discretion was exercised after review of the facts pertaining to an individual case. I doubt that either of us would be happy if the Obama administration got into the habit of declaring, in advance, that it wouldn't enforce laws that it didn't like.

But this particular policy is the only one so far that I agree with.

trumwill said...

There may be merit in saying "In cases where this fact exists within the case, we won't prosecute" that's not the same as saying "We're not going to enforce this law at all." Or is there a specific, separate law about medicinal marijuana. My impression has been that MM is outlawed because there is no exception for it and not because it was expressly decided so.

Anonymous said...

It's as much of an assertion of legalism as anything else. The law upon which this federal jurisdiction is based, an extreme reading of the Commerce Clause, is somewhat suspect.