Right Thinking From The Left Coast
Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one. - Albert Einstein

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Threat of Prop 19

The possibility that California will legalize pot is driving people not just to ill-informed op-eds but now to outright threat of arbitrary law:

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said on Friday that the voters don’t matter. His deputies’ enforcement of marijuana laws would not change even if voters approved Proposition 19, which would legalize cannabis in California, on November 2, according to the Sheriff.

“Proposition 19 is not going to pass, even if it passes,” Baca said in a news conference Friday at sheriff’s headquarters in Monterey Park, reports Robert Faturechi in The Los Angeles Times.

The department run by Sheriff Baca polices 75 percent of Los Angeles County. His staunch opposition to marijuana—even if it is legalized—was echoed Friday by an announcement from Attorney General Eric Holder that federal officials would continue to “vigorously enforce” cannabis laws in California, even if state voters pass the measure.

As Balko points out, Holder has no issue enforcing and supporting state laws that restrict freedom—such as the gay marriage bans, greenhouse gas restrictions, etc.  But let a state legalize the wacky weed and—despite Obama’s campaign pledge—all bets are off.

(The one outlier here is Arizona’s immigration law.  I suspect Holder would let that stand if he weren’t so terrified of losing Latino votes.)

However, Holder’s statement doesn’t really bother me, despite the furor it has created in libertarian circles.  He has federal law and the Raich SCOTUS decision to back him up.  What he’s doing is wrong, in my opinion, since AG’s have discretion in what crimes their offices emphasize.  But his position is neither illegal nor unconstitutional.  The only thing that can stop him is if Congress passes a law protecting state marijuana legalization—medical or otherwise.  That won’t happen no matter who is in office, of course.  But at least Holder isn’t completely out to lunch.  In fact, I would almost argue that he’s right, given the Raich precedent.

But what Sheriff Baca said is beyond the pale. He’s essentially saying that he will be judge and jury on the constitutionality of Prop 19.  In his opinion, it’s not constitutional, so he’s going to keep busting potheads.  I’m curious what he will do if a Court issues a stay on pot enforcement until the constitutional issues are resolved.  That has to be the pot busters’ biggest fear—that if Prop 19 passes (by no means a certain thing), an intractable legal marijuana infrastructure will be in place by the time SCOTUS rules on it.  Essentially, he’s promising pre-emptive strikes to make sure that doesn’t happen.

It’s one thing for a law enforcement officer to refuse to enforce a law because he thinks it violates Constitutional rights such as freedom of speech or religion.  Federal officials, at least, are sworn to uphold the Constitution—hence the Oath Keepers.  But it’s quite different for a Sheriff to keep enforcing a law that no longer exists, to essentially start outlawing things on his own and enforcing his own brand of law.

Here’s the thing: everyone who knows what’s best for us is against Prop 19.  Almost all the politicians, all the newspapers, all the drug czars and all the law enforcement officials.  I have never see such a unanimity of opinion on an issue.  Only amongst the general public—the stupid general public—is the idea popular.

Why is that?  Are our cops, politicos and newsmen so much wiser than the rest of us?  No.  Our cops, politicos and newsmen have an interest in continuing the War on Drugs.  The War on Drugs lets politicians look tough on crime and gives them an issue with which to beat guys like Rand Paul.  The War on Drugs has expanded police departments and prisons, given them the power to seize money and property without trial to pad their budgets, given them high arrest and conviction rates.  And the newspapers?  Well, the newspapers are just full of shit.  But they also want to cozy up to the powerful.

Me?  I’m dubious that Prop 19 will pass.  And I’m even more dubious that it will be allowed to stand.  Of the Supreme Court justices who dissented in Raich, O’Conner and Rhenquist are gone, replaced by Alito and Roberts, both of whom have a clear history of deferring to government power.  Kagan and Sotomayor are two more Nanny State liberals who will almost certainly vote the same way Stevens and Souter did.  It’s very likely Prop 19 will get an 8-1 shellacking in the Supreme Court, assuming they even bother to hear it.

And what then? Open revolt? De facto disobedience of the law? Secession?  What I’m hoping is that the “what then” is that the American people wake up and tell the Federal government to stop bullying the states around.  I’m hoping the “what then” is that other states join the rebellion.  I’m hoping the “what then” is that Congress has no choice but to do what they should have fucking done ten years ago—pass a law letting the states decide their own God-damned drug laws. Help them enforce the ones they have, but keep the Feds the hell out of the decision-making process.

That may seem like a fat chance with the Tea Party’s current leaning toward social cons (although Rand Paul is a drug dissenter).  But if the movement cresting now is really a return to constitutional restraint, one can hope.

That is why I support Prop 19.  The scaling back of the Drug War can not and will not start at the top, with the politicians.  The War on Drugs is too vital to them, gives them too much power and too strong an issue to pound the table on.  The only way we are going to scale this monstrosity back is from the ground up, from the American people saying they’ve enough of this.  They’ve had enough of the SWAT raids and the dead dogs and the gang empowerment and the ruined lives that the Drug War entails.  We’ve spent four awful decades of breaking eggs for this War and do not have a single omelet to show for it.  All we have is smashed crockery, a kitchen in flames and egg white all over the ceiling.

Enough.  It’s time to end this nonsense.  And it seems like the voters of California—fucking crazed-out whack-job blue state California—might be the ones to begin the end of the War on Drugs.

PS: It’s really worth linking up Lee’s reaction to the Raich decision ("Federalism Has Gone To Pot").  It’s pure Angry Lee and it’s beautiful:

Hey, Stevens, you dick.  I agree with you in principle, that the best solution to issues is usually through the democratic process.  But the court system exists for a reason, and it’s to restrain government power over the rights of the individual.  In this case, ten states have, through the democratic process you think is so neato, chosen to permit sick people to use marijuana to alleviate their pain, yet you decided to crap all over that by ruling that a guy who grows a plant in his house for his own personal use is somehow covered by Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce.

Basically this is a huge green light for Congress to basically do whatever the fuck it likes if it can somehow, in some way, sorta, kinda tie it in to interstate commerce.  Our highest court just sold us out.  And Scalia, fucking Scalia, the one true federalist on the court, actually sided with the majority in this idiocy.  I’m just disgusted by the whole thing.

All you social conservatives, remember this the next time you piss and moan about some liberal activist court.  This decision is the LITERAL DEFINITION of judicial activism.

Update: In Federalist No. 45, James Madison wrote, “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.” Unless, of course, it’s for something that’s politically expedient for the president and his administration.  They argued for the right to prosecute offenders, and they got it, Constitution be damned.

Man, I miss his voice.  He would be cleaning up on Prop 19.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 10/20/10 at 06:11 AM in Cullyforneah  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink
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