Federalism: United States and Marijuana Essay

Submitted By jmil98
Words: 908
Pages: 4

Federalism Federalism is defined as a “political system that binds a group of states into a larger, non-centralized, superior state while allowing them to maintain their own political identities.” (Merriam-Webster, Incorporated) Federal systems allow for both the national and state governments to enjoy sovereignty, “which is the authority of a state to exercise legitimate powers within its boundaries, free from external interference.” (Tannahill) Tension between the state and federal government goes back to the very start of our country. I am going to discuss a more recent event that has caught the headlines of newspapers, the legalization of marijuana for recreational use in the states of Colorado and Washington. On Election Day, November 6, 2012, the citizens of Colorado went to vote on the legalization of recreational use of marijuana. Fifty-five percent of the voters approved Amendment 64, which calls the state to regulate marijuana as it would alcohol. (Malone) Under the Controlled Substance Act, the federal U.S. drug policy, marijuana falls under the Section I controlled substances, which are substances that have the following findings: “A. The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse, B. The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, or C. There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.” (Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.) So, under federal law marijuana is illegal but under Colorado and Washington state law it is legal. This has brought upon a lot of discussion in the country, and people are curious as to what the federal government is going to do or not do. The U.S. Department of Justice has been asked by both the Washington and Colorado officials for guidance on the laws that conflict with federal law and surprisingly, the federal government has been fairly silent. They have stated though, that marijuana will continue to be illegal and that the Controlled Substance Act will be enforced. (Wyatt) Someone who has not been so silent in the topic though is former Rhode Island Congressman, Patrick Kennedy. Kennedy, who opposes legalization, launched his project SAM, Smart Approaches to Marijuana, in January in Denver, Colorado. Their goal is to inform people of the dangers of marijuana and help them seek treatment. Co-founder of SAM, Kevin Sabet, says he believes that the people of Colorado were not fully informed when they voted for legalization. He stated, “I think a lot of people saw it as an either/or situation without realizing there might be something in between incarceration and legalization. The story in Colorado has not been completed and it is important for people to know there are alternatives.” (Kersgaard) Sabet’s group is looking for a middle ground. They do not believe that legalization is the answer but that they need better drug policies that emphasize treatment over incarceration. Colorado laughs at the idea that they did not know what they were voting for. Mason Tvert, who works for the Marijuana Policy Project, states, “The science is clear that marijuana is less harmful to users than alcohol or tobacco.”(Kersgaard) “As Radley Balko put it, “More Coloradans voted for pot than for Obama.”” (Sargent) The state of Colorado is fighting to keep Amendment 64 legal, as more than fifty percent of the voters voted to legalize it. Where I stand on this issue is a little unclear to even myself. Morally, I am against the legalization of marijuana. I think that it is a drug that shouldn’t be used and that it only leads to the