Editorial: Federal government should allow states to sanction marijuana businesses
The federal government should have a consistent policy of allowing states to control cannabis within their borders.
Seattle Times Editorial
PRESIDENT Obama’s statement of tolerance toward legalized marijuana is welcome. He is being respectful of the rights of states and of the people in Colorado and Washington who have changed marijuana law in public votes.
“It would not make sense,” Obama told Barbara Walters of ABC News, “for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that it’s legal.”
The sentiment is right, though stated cautiously.
The real question is not whether federal agents will go after users. In Colorado and Washington, the question is whether they will go after growers, processors and retailers that have been licensed under state law. It is whether the federal government will allow states to sanction businesses that keep accounts, pay taxes and follow state law.
The federal government should have a consistent policy of allowing states to control cannabis within their borders. This respects the U.S. Constitution’s 10th Amendment, which declares the rights of states, and parallels the 21st Amendment, which makes the control of alcohol a matter of state law. Marijuana is more like alcohol than the other drugs prohibited under the Controlled Substances Act.
Federal authorities have not been consistent regarding medical marijuana, which has been around for more than a decade. The U.S. attorney in Spokane shut down dispensaries there and the U.S. attorney in Seattle has left most of them open here. Just last week, a federal subpoena was issued for the medical marijuana records of Mendocino County, Cali. — a matter that should not be of federal concern.
The president’s policy should extend across the whole spectrum of federal power, for example, to include bank regulation. On Dec. 6 there was a home invasion and robbery in Bothell, so far unsolved. (Bothell Police welcomes any tips.) The victims were carrying large amounts of cash because the dispensary they work for could not get a bank account, because banks are subject to federal regulators.
On Nov. 6, the people of Washington voted to change how their government deals with marijuana. It was a historic vote, and it is good that President Obama intends to respect it.
The states are trying something new, and federal authority should accommodate them.