09 December 12
f all the unfathomable quirks - and I am being very kind, it being the holiday season and all - of the Obama Administration, its unfathomable rigidity on the topic of marijuana makes less sense than any of the others. The squishiness elsewhere on civil liberties is understandable in the context that America simply will not elect a president who campaigns on a platform of appearing to weaken the office. The crushing of whistle-blowers - and the revolting confinement of Bradley Manning - at least can be understood in that same context. (We have committed ourselves, one way or another, to voting for a president based somewhat on his more authoritarian impulses since the country elected Andy Jackson. The last president to get elected based on promises to maintain the office within its prescribed constitutional limits was James Madison, who helped define those limits in the first place.) The occasionally mushiness on corporate malfeasance is a demonstration that the president's populism has very clearly defined - and, to be entirely fair, very clearly explained - limits. All of these can be understood generally - which is not the same thing as being excused - by the fact that we elect human beings to be our president and that we have certain expectations of those humans and that office which are darker than others, and which we don't talk about among ourselves very often.
But the relentless busting of chops on ganja doesn't fit into any of those categories. If nothing else, the results in Colorado and in Washington state - and, to a lesser extent, in Massachusetts - indicate that the political salience of the "war on drugs," as applied to marijuana, at least, almost has completely evaporated. It can be argued that there is no more political risk to the president of changing his policy on marijuana now than there was in his "evolving" on gay marriage last year. In both cases, the people out in the states are out ahead of the national politics of the issue.
But, as we learn in today's New York Times,in a story by national-treasure Charlie Savage, rather than avail itself of the freedom to maneuver it was granted by the results of statewide referenda last month, the administration instead is reacting to those results by getting even tougher.
Even as marijuana legalization supporters are celebrating their victories in the two states, the Obama administration has been holding high-level meetings since the election to debate the response of federal law enforcement agencies to the decriminalization efforts. Marijuana use in both states continues to be illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act. One option is to sue the states on the grounds that any effort to regulate marijuana is pre-empted by federal law. Should the Justice Department prevail, it would raise the possibility of striking down the entire initiatives on the theory that voters would not have approved legalizing the drug without tight regulations and licensing similar to controls on hard alcohol. Some law enforcement officials, alarmed at the prospect that marijuana users in both states could get used to flouting federal law openly, are said to be pushing for a stern response. But such a response would raise political complications for President Obama because marijuana legalization is popular among liberal Democrats who just turned out to re-elect him.
A little further down in the story, we get a glimpse of at least a piece of what is really going on, a real-life response to the warning of Governor William J. LePetomaine from Blazing Saddles: "Gentlemen, we could lose our phony-baloney jobs over this."
...read the rest at the link above...