« Prev


Next »

Cops Required to Enforce Federal Drug Laws = Total Bullshit

In a published opinion, a three-justice panel from the state’s 4th District Court of Appeal ruled that police should adhere to state law, which legalizes medical marijuana, and give back 8 grams of the drug to Felix Kha of Garden Grove, who had the drug taken from him more than two years ago during a traffic stop.

Garden Grove argued officers should not give the drug back because it would be a violation of federal law, which considers marijuana contraband.

But in a 41-page ruling, justices said Kha, a medical marijuana patient, has a right to get his property back, and that its return would not affect federal law enforcement.

So listen up. The tired claim that states can’t change marijuana laws because it conflicts with federal law is a talking point from law enforcement. It’s not true (just like so many other bullshit claims we’ve been told about pot). So stop repeating it.

Like I’ve said before: States can change drug policy for offenses that are not federally enforced. For example, Washington can decriminalize pot for personal use because possession is only charged in the local jurisdiction. Same with growing just a few plants for medical marijuana. Only about one percent of pot cases are charged federally—those are huuuuuge grow operations and pot dispensaries. The rest of the cases, as this ruling in Oregon shows and now this one in California affirms, are left to the states to decide.

The justices wrote: “[I]t must be remembered it is not the job of the local police to enforce the federal drug laws as such. For reasons we have explained, state courts can only reach conduct subject to federal law if such conduct also transcends state law, which in this case it does not.”

And in case you’re still on the fence about whether pot smokers should go to jail, read this, Jen Graves.

Comments (13)


If the feds want my Seattle taxes to go to enforcing laws that I deem not important, they can bring in the federal marshals.

Or the FBI.

But our cops should politely tell the feds they're too busy doing real police work and shove their requests in the circular file.

Posted by Will in Seattle | November 29, 2007 1:18 PM

I know there are probably whole books written about this, but what part of the Constitution even empowers the government to regulate drugs that don't cross state lines? I mean, not to be too constructionist about this, but as far as I recall the 10th Amendment stipulates that the Fed can do only those things outlined in the Constitution and that all other powers fall to the states. So... where's the drug enforcement clause?

Posted by Judah | November 29, 2007 1:35 PM

It's in there next to the America shall not suffer Kings clause.

Posted by Will in Seattle | November 29, 2007 1:42 PM

Amen, Dominic. Don't let the left cave on this one. And Judah, you're half-right--it should be that way. But commerce clause jurisprudence is a total joke and has become selective based on judges' politics. No one really defends it; it just is because it's precedent.

Posted by alas | November 29, 2007 1:43 PM

does this mean i can start getting high again?

Posted by max solomon | November 29, 2007 2:17 PM

Well, if the cops are going to be fair about it, they should give him an equivalent amount of something they've bagged recently, since two year-old weed isn't really going to have the same "kick" to it.

Posted by COMTE | November 29, 2007 3:15 PM

An aside: it's so funny seeing pot smokers get so angry about the enforcement of Federal drug laws.

Not that I don't believe pot should be legalized, because I do. But still, there's a strong hypocrisy fueling the rage.

Posted by Gomez | November 29, 2007 3:38 PM

Pot smokers shouldn't go to jail, but they should get a fine. Because marijuana possession is still illegal, like jaywalking is illegal.

Posted by Greg | November 29, 2007 3:52 PM

There's no hypocrisy, Gomez. Just a misunderstanding among people like you who support drug law reform, but swallow drug war propaganda and regurgitate it.

The issue isn't the feds enforcing federal drug laws. The thing that ires pot smokers (and non-pot smokers, like, judges) is state law enforcement violating state law and justifying it by citing federal law, even when the case is not in the federal jurisdiction. If those officers were actually enforcing federal law, the arrests would typically be made by federal agents (DEA) and the case would be charged in federal court. But that's only one percent of cases.

And, Greg, not if we decriminalize marijuana. Then it won't be illegal.

Posted by Dominic Holden | November 29, 2007 4:29 PM

Hey, I'm all for legalization (moreso than for just decriminalization). The sooner the better. But while cannabis posession remains illegal, people who break the law should still face consequences for doing so. (It is still illegal in Seattle, even if it's the lowest police priority.) In this case those consequences should be getting a ticket and paying a fine.

Maybe it sounds dumb, trying to change the penalty for breaking a crappy law, but I think it's a useful intermediate step to full legalization.

Posted by Greg | November 29, 2007 5:11 PM

Your constitutional law is all scewed up.

If the federal law preempts the field, state law can not be contrary.

That's why Alabama can't say scew you feds, we gonna discriminate against Blacks.

You are slipping into States Rights here.

Posted by unPC | November 29, 2007 5:40 PM

unPC, the difference is that changing a state's Uniform Controlled Substance law does not present a Constitutional conflict with federal law. Damn right, the states are right.

Posted by Dominic Holden | November 29, 2007 6:17 PM

@#10:"Maybe it sounds dumb, trying to change the penalty for breaking a crappy law, but I think it's a useful intermediate step to full legalization."

I won't say it sounds dumb, but I disagree. We have a better chance at legalising marijuana if people see the ridiculousness of our current drug laws, i.e., the punishment is way too harsh for the "crime." If we go halfway, (and satisfy most people that don't want to see things like kids being raped in prison over a $20 sack), then it will be that much harder to reach the ultimate goal of legalisation.

Dominic- I can't wait to hear what Tom Carr has to say about this. Could we get him in on this conversation? Never mind, it's so much more fun to watch him turn red when he gets mad.

Posted by Roboti | November 29, 2007 7:37 PM

Comments Closed

In order to combat spam, we are no longer accepting comments on this post (or any post more than 14 days old).