U.S. Government Loses War on Medical Drugs
by Fred E. Foldvary, Senior Editor
The U.S. government has been proud of not losing wars. Even the war in Vietnam was not so much lost as abandoned. But this time the federal government has lost it. The War on Drugs still goes on, but the federal chiefs have lost their will to fight. As in Vietnam, the U.S. fears to use its full powers to win. The reason the war on drugs has been lost is that the intellectual case for the war has been defeated. And in a democracy, the will to fight a war is based on its intellectual rationale. Once the doctrine behind the war is defeated, the military defeat follows.
The battle that turned the course of the war was fought on September 17, 2002, in Santa Cruz, California. Ever since Berkeley turned conservative in the early 1990s, the champion liberal city in California has been Santa Cruz, a seaside resort at Monterey Bay.
The citizens of the sovereign State of California had previously voted to legalize marijuana for medical purposes (Proposition 215, 1996). But the possession of marijuana is illegal by U.S. federal law. There was thus a legal conflict between federal and State law. This conflict raises a question: could the founding fathers of the United States of America have been so foolish as to leave us with a Constitution that is vulnerable to a conflict between the laws of the sovereign States and the laws of the sovereign federal government? No! The founders were not fools!
The U.S. Constitution states that the federal government only has the powers explicitly allocated to it in the Constitution, with all other powers left to the States. When in the 1920s opponents of alcohol prohibited the consumption of beer, wine, and other alcoholic drinks, the U.S. had to enact a Constitutional amendment to do this. But no amendment was passed to prohibit marijuana. There is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that authorizes the federal government to prohibit drugs. Criminal law is Constitutionally a State matter, unless there is an explicit provision for federal law, as for example for treason, or for the military.
Constitutionally, then, there should be no conflict, because the federal law prohibiting marijuana is unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court has failed to recognize this, creating the conflict. The federal government has been waging a vicious war in California, putting users of medical marijuana in prison, where some, deprived of their medicine, have died. Federal agents have raided and confiscated the marijuana distributed by clinics, including one in Santa Cruz. The city council members of Santa Cruz decided that they would not surrender to this illegal federal attack, but fight back. They bravely participated in a public distribution at City Hall. The mayor declared "We're taking a stand."
Over a thousand people held a demonstration there in support of the city action. Over 200 journalists from around the world were there to witness and report on this historic event. Many compared this to the Boston Tea Party, when American revolutionaries defied the British colonial government. Some held signs saying "U.S. Out of Santa Cruz."
The city government did not officially sponsor the event; the city council members acted on their own, and the chief of police stated that the police would not arrest people legitimately obtaining medical marijuana. The city was not attempting to legalize marijuana in general, but only to allow its medicinal use, in accord with State and city law.
The U.S. government has claimed that "interstate commerce" gives it jurisdiction over marijuana. But in the Santa Cruz case, the marijuana is grown locally and not shipped out of State. There is no legitimate interstate activity that warrants federal intervention.
California is not alone in making medical marijuana legal. It is also legal in Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. The city of Washington DC attempted to put a medical marijuana measure on the ballot, but this was blocked by a federal court. All across the US, there is a revolt against the federal prohibition of the medical use of marijuana for those suffering from cancer and other diseases. Aside from constitutional issues, there is no moral justification for depriving a person in pain and suffering nausea from radiation and chemical treatments some relief and healing from medical marijuana. The federal prohibition of this medicine simply demonstrates starkly that government is a cruel master.
The U.S. government could have sent in an armed FBI team to arrest those obtaining the medical marijuana. If the U.S. chiefs were confident in their intellectual justification of their War on Drugs, if they felt righteous in their cause, they would have had pride in their power, and they would have stopped this flagrant, public, blatant, well-publicized violation of federal law. But the federals allowed this to take place. The feds have lost the will to fight!
The federals gave way because they have lost the intellectual side of the war. It's all over now. The legalizers have the moral ground. The feds will continue to imprison helpless individual users, but when a city backs them, the feds will back down. The tide has turned. The U.S. government will continue to fight battles, confiscating marijuana and imprisoning medical users, but this is now simply a refusal to recognize that the U.S. has lost the moral war. More and more cities and States will join the rebels, and eventually, the U.S. government will lose its military war on medical marijuana.
-- Fred Foldvary
Copyright 2002 by Fred E. Foldvary. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system, without giving full credit to Fred Foldvary and The Progress Report.
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