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