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War on Drugs: Obama should respect the Tenth Amendment

By Scott Tibbs, December 11, 2012

The title of this post seems absurd on its face, because the idea that a President who has supported the dramatic expansion of the federal government would respect the authority of the states to govern their own affairs is laughable. Nonetheless, Barack Obama said in 2008 that he would not interfere with states that legalized marijuana for medical use. That turned out to be a lie, as the raids continued.

It should not be a surprise, then, that the Obama administration is looking for ways to thwart the states that decriminalized marijuana through referendums in the 2012 election - even though the vast majority of the supporters of these initiatives are also Obama supporters. Obama's abandonment of his own voters is pretty striking.

It is true that decriminalizing marijuana itself is quite a step farther than simply allowing it to be used for medical conditions under the supervision of doctors. But the Tenth Amendment still applies, and the people of Colorado and Washington are more capable of governing their own affairs and meeting the specific needs in their states than a one-size-fits-all solution from one city on the east coast.

But Obama should back off and let the states govern themselves on whether they want to pursue marijuana users, for both political and practical reasons.

Politically, this would make his own supporters happy, but would also be a tip of the hat to the Tea Party conservatives who have spent the last four years trying to restore some respect for the Tenth Amendment. The Tea Party will not support Obama in any case (and they shouldn't) but there's no reason not to reach across the aisle and do something that makes both the left and libertarian right happy.

Practically, the War on Drugs has failed. Just like Prohibition of alcohol, the drug war has enabled organized crime - especially the hyper-violent drug cartels in Mexico that have the population living in fear with their gruesome and brazen mass murders. If you take away the black market, you will take away much of the profit the cartels enjoy.

The voters recognized this, and they see no need in continuing to spend large amounts of money fighting a war we can never win. Using marijuana may be an incredibly foolish and stupid thing to do, but do we really need to be putting nonviolent marijuana users in prison, destroying their lives, filling up our prisons and driving up state budget deficits?

The answer is no.