By John Stark
Will the Obama administration allow the state of Washington to overturn federal law by referendum?
That’s one question overshadowing the controversy over how the federal government should respond to the state vote that decriminalized recreational marijuana possession — while directing state officials to set up a system to enable state residents to buy the stuff legally too.
The AP reports that Gov. Jay Inslee and Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson emerged from a Tuesday, Jan. 22 meeting with Attorney General Eric Holder saying that they heard nothing to dissuade them from moving ahead to implement the law that this state’s voters approved last November.
Inslee als0 made it clear that Holder listened, but did not talk. As yet, there has been no indication of how the feds will react when and if the state sets up a marijuana sales system n the state.
A lot of people are deeply committed to the legalization of drugs, for a variety of reasons.
But aside from the specifics of that issue, this case raises larger legal and constitutional problems. Can Holder and his boss allow a state to set aside a federal law by initiative? Before you answer yes, stop to think about how other states might wish to apply this principle.
If Obama accepts the principle on marijuana, he will have a harder time rejecting it when hostile states pass initiatives blocking the individual health care mandate, greenhouse gas emission controls, and so forth.
MORE INFO: A Seattle law group is using its website to advertise its expertise in marijuana law, including the new pot initiative 502. Among other things, Canna Law Group notes that it sued the city of Bellingham in an (unsuccessful) effort to block prosecution of medical marijuana dispensaries.
The law group offers this disclaimer: “Please be mindful that possessing, using, distributing and selling marijuana are all federal crimes and neither the forms we provide you nor any legal advice we give you are intended to assist you in violating federal law nor will they in any way assist you in complying with federal law.”