Time to again mobilize against marijuana
Backers of marijuana legalization are not dissuaded by the November defeat of California Proposition 19. Expect them to regroup for 2012. Those who oppose legalization must also mobilize, led by Obama and his administration.
A pleasant surprise from last month’s elections was a big “no” vote in California on a ballot measure that would have created the first jurisdiction in the world to fully legalize marijuana.Skip to next paragraph
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The state most identified with “recreational” drugs sent a strong signal to all the nation’s politicians that – maybe, just maybe – pot isn’t heading toward social, and ultimately legal, acceptance.
Ah, if it were that simple.
The pro-pot lobby isn’t taking “no” for an answer. The legal buying and selling of marijuana, like alcohol or tobacco, is only a matter of when, not if, say backers.
And, indeed, even though the California vote was 54 percent to 46 percent, subsequent polling showed the no vote may not reflect a solid rejection.
If the pro group can write a tighter law, and if supporters can get out the youth vote (far more likely in a presidential election year), they may well succeed in 2012 – in California, Colorado, or other states.
But not if opponents of pot legalization can mobilize now. (For a Monitor editorial arguing against legalization, click here.)
Needed: One voice, one message
What is needed is a dominant voice with a convincing, simple message to act as a counterweight to a legalization lobby that is run by a handful of savvy, persistent, and well-coordinated organizations and donors.
Who might take on that job?
President Obama, as a father and political leader, must use the bully pulpit for this issue. His administration must act preemptively and be explicit about federal action against any state that moves to make pot legal. It should not wait to reveal its plan of attack until a state referendum finally passes or a legislature succumbs.
The Feds have the reach. They have the funds. They have the law. If only they had the political will.
In this administration, the antilegalization fight has been left largely to Mr. Obama’s “drug czar,” Gil Kerlikowske. He’s done a credible job, and his office is now wisely considering a strategy to counter Round 2 in the legalization drive. But where is the rest of the administration?
The initiative was in “direct conflict” with federal law that makes production and sale of marijuana a federal crime, the DEA administrators pointed out. And the measure, if passed, would violate the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, where federal law trumps state law.
A hesitant Justice Department
With the crucial California election less than three weeks away, Mr. Holder responded to the former chiefs. He stated that the Department of Justice opposes Prop. 19, would enforce the law, and said the department was “considering all available legal and policy options.”
It was a belated warning that left exact consequences unsaid. Those plans still haven’t been revealed, and should be. But Holder’s warning was enough of a caution that California voters began to wonder whether their state might lose federal contracts and dollars.
Holder is not the only hesitant administration official in the antilegalization drive. Where is Vice President Joe Biden? As a senator, he took the lead in creating the drug-czar office. Obama, too, has shrunk from the issue, laughing it off at a town-hall meeting in 2009, then adding a one-liner that legalizing marijuana is not a good strategy to grow the economy.