Public Nuisance

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The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement.
-Ronald Reagan

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Tuesday, October 08, 2002
 
Legalize It

That's just what seems to be happening increasingly, particularly in the western states. Voters in Arizona are likely to approve by a large margin an initiative which legalizes medical marijuana according to a poll cited by MyDD. Talk Left notes that the same initiative also decriminalizes possession of less than two ounces of marijuana, even without medical permission.

Meanwhile, voters in Nevada seem ready to approve the actual legalization of marijuana. This would seem to be in Nevada's great tradition of living off the vices of Californians. Now that residents of the San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego areas all have Indian casinos closer than the Nevada border, not to mention sports books and various forms of gambling on the internet without leaving home, making Nevada a pot center is a logical step.

Pro-marijuana initiatives seem to pass almost invariably when put to voters, which makes it interesting that they rarely do well in legislatures. Legislators still seem to fear the 'soft on drugs' label, however often the voters show that they are soft on marijuana. Very few Congressional candidates of either party that I've seen are talking about weakening federal marijuana law, or allowing state medical marijuana laws to override the federal laws, even when the state laws have been passed by their constituents.

Conservative candidates should be backing state's rights to legalize medical marijuana as a matter of principle, but I see no evidence of that going on either. Libertarian Party candidates do, obviously, but if Republicans or conservative Democrats who have a serious chance to win are supporting state's rights in marijuana law, I haven't heard of it. Nor are courts, which have recently overturned several federal provisions on the grounds that they exceed the constitutional right to regulate interstate commerce, shown any skepticism of the claim that growing a plant in your yard and selling it to somebody else living in the same city constitutes interstate commerce.

The hard right conservative that I used to car pool with a few years ago routinely denounced any governmental anti-tobacco action as an intrusion of the Nanny State, but invariably considered any weakening of laws against marijuana, homosexuality, or pornography as further proof that the US was imitating the decadence of the late Roman Empire. My attempts to get an explanation of how these theories were consistent never got very far.



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