WSJ: Obama Shows Disregard for Law in Stance on Marijuana

Thursday, 05 Sep 2013 04:04 PM

By Dan Weil

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President Barack Obama is once more showing his willingness to ignore laws he doesn't like, given his administration's position on state marijuana statutes, according to a Wall Street Journal editorial.

"His decision to suspend the enforcement of a federal drug law [came] because it doesn't fit his political agenda," Journal said Thursday.

In a memorandum last week, the Justice Department essentially instructed U.S. attorneys to refrain from enforcing federal marijuana laws, according to the editorial. The memo was in response to voter referendums last November in Colorado and Washington that legalized the recreational use of marijuana for adults.

"There's just one problem," the Journal said, noting that states are forbidden from regulating the use of marijuana by the federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970.

"Like it or not, Congress declared marijuana to be a dangerous drug that should be banned," the Journal stated.

When California argued that its medical marijuana law allowed people to grow their own for personal use, the Supreme Court declared that federal law took precedence. Obamacare backers even used the decision to argue that the federal government can require citizens to buy health insurance, the editorial pointed out.

"Now Attorney General Eric Holder says never mind all that, and Americans should mellow out about such legal nuances," the Journal said.

"Justice's memo is dressed up in the language of enforcement priorities and 'limited resources,' but as a practical matter it means no prosecutor who cares about his career — which is to say all of them—will bring another marijuana case."

The Journal acknowledged that prosecutorial resources are indeed limited and that some crimes are a higher priority than others.

"But prosecutorial discretion is also not unlimited. A president can't simply make a blanket declaration that he won't enforce part or all of a law he doesn't like," the paper's editorial board said, insisting that the president and Attorney General Eric Holder "are effectively decriminalizing an entire class of narcotics crimes" and "rewriting a law passed by Congress."

The Journal editorial went on to say that the administration's motivation on marijuana is about politics and not the law.

"Obama knows that the politics of drug legalization is still tricky and there could be a backlash in states with hot Senate races next year. Yet he also doesn't want to offend his pot-loving liberal base. So his political default is simply to declare he won't enforce current federal law."

The Journal concluded by raising a question about what would happen if ordinary Americans suddenly decided "that they also don't have to follow laws they don't like — and not merely smoking reefer on the front porch."

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