Thursday, September 20, 2012

Feds Need to Back Off on Colorado's (MJ) Amendment 64

On November 6th, Colorado voters will not only be casting their ballots for the next President of the United States, but also on Amendment 64, for the legalization of marijuana. Colorado could, in fact, be one of three states (the others Washingon and Oregon) to enable legalization of pot.

Sadly, the appearance of the ballot and its eventual citizen choice is being muddied by two factors: one the threat of ex post facto federal intervention, and the other by specious arguments concerning the 'threat to children". Both need to be considered, and let me take the last one first.  Perhaps no one lately has done a better job of disposing of it than one Denver Post letter writer two days ago:

"“There are many freedoms adults often enjoy that are illegal for kids, including gambling, drinking, smoking, investing, driving, getting piercings and tattoos, getting married, staying out all night, going to many concerts, working a double shift, etc. Granted, many of these freedoms could be considered bad for adults, too, but the “bad for kids” trope is nothing more than a cudgel designed to stifle honest debate. An unregulated black market is most assuredly more harmful to kids than a regulated honest market, and Colorado enjoys many economic advantages from the tax revenue these freedoms bring when adults enjoy them responsibly. And rest assured, adults most certainly do enjoy them.

Intelligent, evidence-based arguments against passing Amendment 64 are hard to find, so these folks fall back to the emotionally charged, false argument that it’s “bad for kids.”

This letter nails it spot-on since the "kid danger" argument, which has often been resurrected lately, relies on impairing intellectual judgment by appeal to emotionalism and hysteria.

The federal threat is also one that must be targeted given the adverse effects in previous state ballots. The classic example was when California voters also considered marijuana legalization in 2010 but went down to defeat after Attorney General Eric Holder (parents originally from Barbados, where I lived for 20 years) warned that the federal government "would not look the other way" i.e. in allowing a state market in defiance of a federal drug law. He also vowed to "vigorously enforce" marijuana prohibition.

One can examine this from many aspects, and though I happen to like Eric Holder, I believe he's what the Bajans call "wrong and strong". I also believe this federal stance is not adopted or sustained out of any morality or truly valid legal consideration or justifications, but merely to protect Big PhRmA and the Alcoholic beverages industries. (Btw this corporate protection didn't start on the Obama Adminstration's watch).

Imagine how the sales of alcoholic beverages, including wine and beer would crater if pot were legalized in even one state. Imagine how Big PhRmA's strangle hold on drugs would crumble if patients had a lot of latitude in selecting MJ for their ills instead of high priced prescription meds!

But let's get to the more fundamental issue of citizen rights. While some nabobs confront the Feds on the basis of "State's rights" this is actually incorrect.  As Prof. Garry Wills has noted in his landmark book, A Necessary Evil-A History Of American Distrust Of Government, Simon & Schuster, 1999, the debasement of discussion of rights has been enabled by consistent disparagement and ignorance in respect of the notions of rights - particularly 'State's Rights'- and the dismissal of the unenumerated rights of citizens under the Ninth Amendment.

As Wills observes (p. 109):

"The Ninth Amendment talks of 'rights enumerated' and says 'the people' retain unenumerated ones. The rights in the Ninth are not the rights of the state, which can- strictly speaking - have no rights."

Wills goes on (ibid.):

""Governments have prerogatives, people have rights - so Hamilton speaks of 'abridgments of prerogative' in the state to protect rights of citizens. What the Ninth says is that the rights enumerated as protected by The Constitution do not exhaust all rights inherent in a people. The states can retain powers, though not rights."
"So 'state's rights' is something of a misnomer, no matter how common its use. The states have no natural rights. Their powers are artificial not natural - since they are things made by contract. The equation "states are to the federal government as people are to the states" mixes apples and oranges. Citizens alone have rights, in relation to both the states and the federal government."

The last sentence is especially important, after settling the issue that states have no natural rights, only artificial powers. But by extension, the federal government as an entity has no natural rights either, only powers, made by contract. That contract, or those contracts CAN be broken if the citizen or citizens exercise their natural rights to do so! Such is the case with Amendment 64, or indeed any of the other state amendments which - through the action of citizen NATURAL rights - confer a benefit (perceived so to those citizens not a Nanny government) that it is legal within that state. Obviously then, the rights can only apply to that state.

If then a Colorado citizen (say having approved Amendment 64) were to go elsewhere and try to exercise MJ use in a non-complying state he would be subject to the full weight of the federal law. But not in his own state. Thus, if the federal government or any of its agencies seeks to intrude on that citizen exercise, once citizens have passed the law for their state, then it is effectively seeking to quash citizen natural rights using federal powers. This is no longer a democracy but ....I don't know what....maybe again a Corporatocracy if the effect is ultimately to protect corporate interests.

The fact is that alcohol is far more deadly and causes vastly more in the way of deaths (i.e. DUI manslaughters, accidents), hardship and addicton than MJ. It is time the feds realize that and stay out of these state ballot measures!

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