The Corner

Politics & Policy

Marijuana Is a Gateway Drug to Federalism

When I speak on college campuses about the need for a more robust federalism, I am often asked how conservatives should sell the idea to those who do not share their political goals. “It’s all very well praising the lack of zoning regulations in Arizona,” students will say, “but how do I explain this need to my progressives friends in Boulder?” 

My answer, for a while now, has been “marijuana.” “It will annoy many people,” I have suggested, “when the executive branch is staffed by drug warriors, and they decide to enforce federal law against states that have voted to legalize. When it happens, and when there’s a reaction, we should point it out.”

Well, here is the reaction:

And here I am pointing it out.

There is no good reason for Washington D.C. to have a view on this. If Colorado or Oregon want to legalize weed while Mississippi and Utah ban it, that’s fine. In fact, that is how the country is supposed to work. The United States is a collection of . . . well, of states; it is not a giant centralized democracy with fifty regional departments. Congress should make it a priority to get the federal government out of this area, and to let the states, not the attorney general’s fealty, determine which rules are best for their citizenries. And conservatives, of all people, should celebrate that. The Founders did not write the Constitution to impose uniformity on hemp. Rarely will we get a better teaching moment than this one.

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