Halfway States Rights Does Not Equal States Rights

In the political circles where I like to debate, the question commonly comes up about drug policy.  Most Libertarians, many progressive social Democrats and even some Conservatives will argue strongly against our war on illegal drugs.  Many argue that it costs too much, many argue that it is government intrusion into our lives and unconstitutional, and others argue just because they happen to be high at the time.

I have been asked my opinion on the issue and people are sometimes surprised how I answer.  Most conservatives, especially Christian, free-market conservatives who know that illegal drugs ruin lives and turn some people into permanent wards of the state, strongly support Federal intervention and Federal drug laws.  I don’t.

I have read through the Constitution many times and cannot find anything that would justify a Federal ban on putting any sort of substance into your body.  Don’t get me wrong, I have seen what drugs do to people and I would vote in a heartbeat to ban them in my state or city.  But until we amend the Constitution with a new prohibition amendment, we damage the integrity of our national foundation of personal freedom and states rights when the Federal Government assumes the duties that the Constitution clearly delegates to the individual states.    In fact, I think if Thomas Jefferson knew only that Reagan was the one who mandated that states adopt 21 as the drinking age limit, he would certainly have called Reagan an anti-Constitutional tyrant.

So is this high praise of President Obama for instructing his attorney general, Eric Holder, to spend more time on affirmative action violations and less time on prosecuting medical potheads in states where it is legal?  No, and here is why:

Currently there are medical marijuana laws in 13 states.  Washington State is perhaps the most lenient, allowing you to have 24 oz. without getting busted and not charging you for a license to carry (marijuana).  Meanwhile, the other 37 states do not have any medical marijuana freedoms.  Yet, every year all 50 states pay billions in Federal taxes for national drug rehab programs alone.  We are spending nearly $500 billion a year on the state and federal level for rehab, incarceration, child services, dealing with homelessness, and other drug related costs.  States cover much of the bill on their own, but according to Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, if the Federal Government recorded costs for prevention and rehabilitation as a separate budget item, it would rank as the  sixth most expensive Federal program.  It accounts for 9.6% of the Federal budget.

Let me break that down in simpler terms.  When Californians can get a prescription for marijuana to handle their stress, athlete’s foot, occasional headaches, or whatever else they can get a doctor to write a prescription for; people in Florida, Connecticut, New York, and Texas will be footing the bill to help them clean up their lives.  When someone in Michigan can’t get a job because spend half the day too stoned to get up, someone in Minnesota will be writing their Federal welfare check.

The Federal Government does not have the constitutional authority to rob one state to pay for another’s social ills.  The Federal Government does not have the constitutional authority to provide for certain groups’ specific welfare while harming the welfare of others through redistributive programs.  The Federal Government does have the constitutional duty to regulate interstate commerce and ensure that one state is not ripping off another.

By granting states the individual right to legalize self-destruction, but requiring that all states be mandated to pay for the consequences, Obama has violated the interstate commerce clause and made national social programs such as Federal welfare, Medicaid, Federally funded SCHIP, Federal funding for faith-based organizations, and his dream of universal healthcare and a public option that much more unconstitutional.

Given the choice, I would rather that Obama had ended unconstitutional wealth redistribution programs than lifted the unconstitutional Federal ban on drugs while still making me pay for the consequences.  Either way, this is no victory for states rights advocates.

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