Opinion
Reading Los Angeles: Join The Times' new book club
Opinion Opinion L.A.

The problem with giving in on marijuana laws

After years of saber-rattling and even arrests that challenged California’s medical marijuana law, the Obama administration is giving in.

Now that medical marijuana is legal in 20 states, and two of those have outright legalized recreational use of cannabis (four more are actively considering it), the administration says it won’t fight these policies in court and will direct its enforcement people to other tasks. Those include preventing sales to minors — good luck — and to states where marijuana is still illegal.

It’s a sensible move but one that raises plenty of questions about when the government should step in to prevent states from attempting to nullify federal laws.

The New York Times reports that Missouri is on the brink of passing a law that would attempt to nullify federal gun regulations by making it illegal for federal agents to enforce such laws in that state. If it does, the Obama administration is expected to take it to court.

There’s a big difference between the two kinds of laws. State marijuana laws haven’t attempted to assert state authority over the federal government; California never said that we’ll arrest any federal narcotics agents who enforce U.S. drug laws. It has more hoped they wouldn’t.

But let’s say the Missouri legislation had been written along those lines. Would the Obama administration just back off? Doubtful.

Of course, what’s needed instead of a “we’ll just ignore your law-breaking” attitude is a saner federal marijuana policy altogether, as well as better research on whether marijuana confers the medical benefits that its fans ascribe to it. But until we have this, there are itchy concerns about when and where the federal government chooses to enforce its laws.

ALSO:

New Mexico's quirky path on gay marriage

Vitamins don't make Girl Scout cookies healthful

What really caused the deaths of 19 firefighters in Yarnell?

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
  • Is marijuana legalization inevitable?
    Is marijuana legalization inevitable?

    The Marijuana Policy Project recently surprised NASCAR fans with an ad pushing recreational marijuana use. The commercial not only mimicked a beer ad to point out the hypocrisy of legalizing alcohol and not marijuana, it also made a case for why marijuana is safer.

  • The USA Freedom Act: A smaller Big Brother
    The USA Freedom Act: A smaller Big Brother

    Last fall, Congress was on the verge of doing away with the most troubling invasion of privacy revealed by Edward Snowden: the National Security Agency's indiscriminate collection of the telephone records of millions of Americans. But then opponents cited the emergence of Islamic State as a reason...

  • There's no place for graffiti in America's national parks
    There's no place for graffiti in America's national parks

    City dwellers can argue over whether graffiti is vandalism or art or some strange hybrid of the two. But when it appears in national parks, there should be no question: It's desecration.

  • Britain's election: A muddle across the pond
    Britain's election: A muddle across the pond

    Americans exasperated by the gridlock in Washington sometimes look enviously at Britain, where the parliamentary system combines executive and legislative duties and the prime minister almost always gets his or her way. Unlike a president who may face a Congress controlled by the other party —...

  • Does Congress know we're at war?
    Does Congress know we're at war?

    When President Obama announced nine months ago that the United States was going to war against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Congress reached an unusual near-consensus on two big points: Entering the fight was a good idea, but it was also important that the legislative branch formally authorize...

  • Chris Christie's political 'machine' — it's not such a bad thing
    Chris Christie's political 'machine' — it's not such a bad thing

    Here's a question whose answer may seem obvious, but isn't. Which is worse, a system in which political hacks can cause a massive traffic jam as a form of political payback, or a system in which it's a federal crime for political hacks to exact such retribution?

  • Stanford's Jon Krosnick: On climate change, most Americans want action
    Stanford's Jon Krosnick: On climate change, most Americans want action

    Another presidential election, another chance for Republican candidates to step out of the denial zone and deal with climate change. That would put them on the same side as a large majority of Americans, if you ask Jon A. Krosnick. He's a Stanford University professor who directs the Political...

  • So long, California: The next drought remedy?
    So long, California: The next drought remedy?

    Gov. Jerry Brown is calling for fines of up to $10,000 for the state’s biggest water wasters. "We've done a lot. We have a long way to go," Brown said. "So maybe you want to think of this as just another installment on a long enterprise to live with a changing climate and with a drought of uncertain...

Comments
Loading