Thomas Gallatin / December 10, 2020

Marijuana Decriminalization Is a Federalism Issue

Fifteen states have now legalized marijuana, and the feds should back off.

Republicans need to face reality on the issue of marijuana legalization: It’s happening. Not everywhere tomorrow and maybe not by 2022, but given the growing number of states that have voted to legalize it— now up to 15, and not just blue states — it’s a forgone conclusion.

However, the fact that marijuana is becoming more socially accepted across the country isn’t the primary reason Republicans should end their opposition to the recreational drug, at least at the federal level. The primary reason is federalism — meaning it should have remained an issue for the individual states.

Furthermore, there’s the glaring problem of how little good has been achieved by prohibiting the substance. This was the position of conservative stalwarts William F. Buckley and Milton Friedman, the latter of whom famously stated that the major basis for his “opposition to marijuana prohibition has not been how badly it’s worked.” Instead, Friedman said, “It has been primarily a moral reason: I don’t think the state has any more right to tell me what to put into my mouth than it has to tell me what can come out of my mouth.” Buckley similarly opined, “Even if one takes every reefer madness allegation of the prohibitionists at face value, marijuana prohibition has done far more harm to far more people than marijuana ever could.”

This past Friday, the House passed a bill decriminalizing marijuana, largely along party lines, with just five Republicans voting for it. Of course, being a Democrat bill, it’s far from ideal, as it would ironically increase the federal government’s involvement with marijuana via regulation and taxation even as it decriminalized the drug. Furthermore, the bill was purely a political stunt by Democrats who essentially prioritized marijuana legalization over seriously working toward a compromise with Senate Republicans on the stalled COVID relief bill.

Again, federalism is really at the heart of the marijuana issue. As former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy contends, “I see no room for ambivalence about either the erosion of federalism or nullification, the concept that states are at liberty to ignore or obstruct legitimate federal law. To my mind, it is not tolerable for states to legitimize conduct that the federal government, acting within its constitutional authority, has made illegal. But an exception must be made for circumstances in which the federal government’s constitutional authority is debatable and the regulatory interests of the states are superior. Such a situation exists when the feds criminalize activity that is essentially intrastate. The resulting tension is in sharp relief when Washington has no will to enforce the disputed federal laws but stubbornly keeps them on the books.”

Start a conversation using these share links:

Who We Are

The Patriot Post is a highly acclaimed weekday digest of news analysis, policy and opinion written from the heartland — as opposed to the MSM’s ubiquitous Beltway echo chambers — for grassroots leaders nationwide. More

What We Offer

On the Web

We provide solid conservative perspective on the most important issues, including analysis, opinion columns, headline summaries, memes, cartoons and much more.

Via Email

Choose our full-length Digest or our quick-reading Snapshot for a summary of important news. We also offer Cartoons & Memes on Monday and Alexander’s column on Wednesday.

Our Mission

The Patriot Post is steadfast in our mission to extend the endowment of Liberty to the next generation by advocating for individual rights and responsibilities, supporting the restoration of constitutional limits on government and the judiciary, and promoting free enterprise, national defense and traditional American values. We are a rock-solid conservative touchstone for the expanding ranks of grassroots Americans Patriots from all walks of life. Our mission and operation budgets are not financed by any political or special interest groups, and to protect our editorial integrity, we accept no advertising. We are sustained solely by you. Please support The Patriot Fund today!

★ PUBLIUS ★

“Our cause is noble; it is the cause of mankind!” —George Washington

The Patriot Post is protected speech, as enumerated in the First Amendment and enforced by the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, in accordance with the endowed and unalienable Rights of All Mankind.

Copyright © 2021 The Patriot Post. All Rights Reserved.

The Patriot Post does not support Internet Explorer. We recommend installing the latest version of Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, or Google Chrome.