Some thoughts of mine about the way city authorities have been going after the medical marijuana community and acting as if there is some mandated compliance with federal authorities. On to the Muckraking! Thanks in advance for all musings and comments, all the well reasoned responses to my first diary were a pleasure.
Several cities in medical marijuana states have curiously, albeit predictably, began going after marijuana dispensaries and growers. Los Angeles, for example, recently send out notices to over 200 dispensaries informing them that they were facing a shutdown as they had not registered for the city lottery that would only authorize 100 winning dispensaries to operate within the city. Also in California, the city of Dana Point has actually sued and won civil damages to the tune of 2 million dollars against dispensaries it claimed were violating the law. Such victories don’t come cheap however, as the lawyer fees alone have amounted to almost $400,000 in tax money. Most recently, in Michigan, an Oakland county prosecutor has claimed all dispensaries to be illegal and called for a law enforcement campaign against them.
Why are these city authorities so eager to fight medical marijuana? Why have law enforcement agencies stated in the past that they would enforce federal laws even if the state passed a legalization measure? No doubt there are plenty of less than altruistic motives, from federal funding to simple ideological zeal, but these are ultimately irrelevant. What does however matter is that none of these city officials have any legal duty to enforce federal laws. The issue at hand is not the Supremacy clause of the US Constitution, but rather the little known Prigg v. Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision from 1842. The case presented a conflict between the federal Fugitive Slave Law of 1793 and a Pennsylvania statute that made it a felony to forcibly remove escaped slaves from the state. While the court found the state statute unconstitutional as it conflicted with federal law, the decision stated that:
This essentially meant that while laws interfering with federal enforcement were unconstitutional, the state was under no obligation to actually enforce federal laws. This ruling still stands today and thus affirms that there is nothing compelling state or city authorities to aid in the enforcement of federal marijuana laws. They are free agents, so long as they do not directly interfere with federal operations.
“As to the authority so conferred upon state magistrates [to deal with runaway slaves], while a difference of opinion has existed, and may exist still on the point, in different states, whether state magistrates are bound to act under it; none is entertained by this Court that state magistrates may, if they choose, exercise that authority, unless prohibited by state legislation.”
The marijuana reform movement has thus far failed to capitalize on this duty/desire dichotomy to influence opinion. It is easy for an elected official to hide under the cover of doing their job, to present themselves as a helpless but determined impartial enforcer of orders from a up high. It is not however so easy to appear as a willing and eager party to unnecessary enforcement. There is a political price, and it is time to collect. This is the message that needs to be used to hammer these local drug warriors in the medical marijuana states. It its time for them to publicly chose a side, to drop the pretense of being a mere tool and admit that they are accomplices to the federal persecution
Originally posted at 420petition