Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Michael: Supreme Court puts a nail in the drug war's coffin

I have long advocated for a cease fire in the drug war. Many will see the recent decision by the Supreme Court under the supremacy clause, giving the federal government the go-ahead to prosecute marijuana growers and sellers even if licensed by a state medical marijuana law, as a victory for drug war proponents. To the contrary, the decision is one of the first bricks in the tomb of the drug war.

The power of the federal government to prosecute those whom the states will not begs the question of where the resources will come from to police and prosecute these 'crimes'. Will the federal Controlled Substances Act now be enforced more often against medical marijuana? Will DEA agents be busting down doors in the 10 states (and growing) which allow medical marijuana? No one expects that, simply because of the limited resources of the federal government in this area.

In fact, profligacy in other areas has prompted Bush to eliminate a $634 million grant program for state and local police departments and cut anti-drug spending in High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas from $226 million to $100 million. The federal budget for drug law enforcement domestically is likely to continue to be reduced across the board, simply because the funding's only constituency is the recipient police forces. Bush's drug war budget is 12.4 billion this year, up by 2.2 percent, but an increasing share is going to overseas interdiction and supply disruption, instead of local governments.

This pattern of spending is likely to erode still further the enthusiasm of local and state governments to cooperate in the drug war. If these activities have to be funded by local tax increases instead of transfer payments from the federal government, some drug interdiction programs are likely to wither. If the federal government is dumping more responsibility for funding and enforcement in the states' laps, while at the same time refusing to recognize state laws for medical use which polling shows that the majority of Americans support, it simply adds impetus to the already growing skepticism about the drug war. As in my last article, I believe the drug war will only come to end when states throw up their hands and say, "Enough!", dumping the full wieght of the problem on the coffers of the Federal government. These recent developements bring that day closer.

The split between state and federal governments demonstrated by these trends points to a coming subsidence of enthusiasm of state governments for carrying the bulk of the cost of conducting the domestic drug war. It is just such a split between federal and state governments that will lead to an increasing federalization of the drug war, and it's increasing unpopularity among civil libertarians, states rights advocates, and cultural conservatives, ever distrustful of federal intrusion. The changes required for the political realignment needed to finally kill the drug war are still inchoate, but the Supreme Court's medical marijuana decision is a favorable development, not a tragedy. At least, not a tragedy for foes of the drug war; it certainly is a tragedy for those poor people who need marijuana for medical uses.


At 6:16 PM, Blogger Joel Gaines said...

I don't see this as a commerce issue, as some have - but in that light the decision is correct. The federal ban is constitutional. That said, we all know this is not about regulating the market on weed. This is about ensuring there is no market on weed - for any purposes.

Honestly, if someone wants to smoke a dooby - even if they are not sick - I could care less. What bothers me is the federal government sending the message that a federal mandate supercedes the will of the voters in individual states on an issue that has nothing to do with national security, or tariffs on trade with other nations, etc.

This also isn't really about smoking dope, but about where the dope comes from. Most proponents want to grow their own. I am not really in agreement with that - and I think dope smoking is bad all around (I don't really care about that debate, to be honest). There are other ways to control pain I am betting. I'm not expert on that, but neither are most of the doctors prescribing pot. In fact, most of them have had no training on pain control at all. It is mostly a specialty these days. The fact that most health insurace does not cover specific treatment for pain control makes this issue all the more screwy.

I am more bothered by the federal government telling states their laws don't mean squat than I am with Doc Nelson telling Grandma to puff a cheeba for pain 3 times a day. I posted about this a little less ardently on my blog, but the more I get to thinking about it the madder I get.


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