Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently spoke about the legalization of marijuana in states such as California, Washington and Colorado. He reasserted the Federal Government’s standing on the drug as an illegal substance, effectively overriding the states’ ruling to legalize it. Sessions announced that the federal administration would be withdrawing from the Cole Memo, a 2013 memorandum drafted by former US Attorney General James M. Cole. The Cole Memo offered some protection for marijuana dispensaries, in states in which the drug is legal, from intervention by the Federal Government.
More than becoming a second “war on drugs”, withdrawing from this memo effectively undermines the Constitution. The sovereignty of states’ ability to uphold their individual rights is being threatened and it puts the legal protection of those involved in the marijuana business at risk.
The Constitution states that “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” In other words, if there is something which the Constitution doesn’t cover for the nation, then the states have the legal right to draft and pass legislation for themselves.
The issue of states’ rights has been disputed since before the Civil War. Even now, our political leaders unfortunately continue to push the limits of intervention between state and federal governance.
States that pass laws benefiting their citizens should not have to worry about the federal government imposing on their decisions and overriding them. Our government is designed to allow states to have a say so in the legal system and make decisions which they believe are in the best interest of their citizens. After effectively passing legislation which has been deemed beneficial for their state, states should not have to concern themselves with the possible imprisonment of their citizens who live by the laws which they have passed.
While individuals in these states won’t be targeted directly by law enforcement, owners of once legal marijuana dispensaries could face legal repercussions from the federal government. The uncertainty of whether to listen to the state or federal government, undermines the security we hold as citizens of a democratic nation.
The Republican party has made known their support and defense of states’ rights for years now. For Sessions to contradict what seems to be a unanimous Republican ideology has made fellow party members question their loyalties to their own party beliefs. Threatening the authority of states’ legislature could possibly create a divide in the Republican Party between those who support the Republican administration, including Sessions, and those who adhere still to their party’s core views on states’ rights.
Allowing the federal government to reverse non-intervention laws implies the interference of the federal government within legal issues which concern state governance. Whether or not you agree with the legalization of marijuana, the protection and respect of state rights is something we must fight to protect. The Constitution reserves political power for states. To disregard these rights is to open the door for further intrusion of federal governance in our state.