We discussed earlier how, when trying to lure back liberal voters for his reelection, President Obama’s administration went into radio silence on its past crackdown on marijuana use, including medical marijuana. Then, the day after reelection, the Justice Department announced that it would continue its unpopular crackdown on pot distribution and possession. Now, after the legalization of marijuana use in Washington state, the Justice Department has announced that it would not yield to the citizens of the state and would continue its crackdown. The statement came from the office of the United States Attorney in Seattle, the highest ranking Justice official in the state.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Seattle warned “[r]egardless of any changes in state law, including the change that will go into effect on Dec. 6 in Washington state, growing, selling or possessing any amount of marijuana remains illegal under federal law. … Neither states nor the executive branch can nullify a statute passed by Congress.”
That is a curious statement since the Obama Administration recently did precisely that in the immigration area — it declared that it would no longer enforce the express law with regard to certain illegal aliens. It also refused to defend such laws as the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Moreover, the Justice Department routinely makes decisions on the allocation of resources and priorities. Many citizens question the need and efficiency of fighting the use of pot, particularly for medical purposes. The statement from the highest DOJ attorney in the state is therefore not only misleading but appears intentionally misleading. It expressly states (wrongly) that the Administration has no choice but to prosecute the possession and distribution of marijuana.
It is also worth noting that the Administration did not need these state laws to alter its senseless actions in this area for the last four years. It has continued its policy despite widespread criticism and indeed these laws were responses to that ongoing federal campaign.
For the moment, federal agents stood aside as citizens in Washington celebrated the legalization of marijuana. However, the message is clear — if belated after the election — that President Obama will continue the mindless campaign in the area. We have a huge bureaucracy that is entirely geared toward the prosecution of these cases, including the ability to keep “proceeds” seized in these raids by police and prosecutors. It has become something of a perpetual enforcement machine unconnected to any sense of priority or logic. It also denies the right of these states to go their own way under federalism principles.