July 4th, 2011
by Kris Hermes
More by a confluence of circumstances than by design, the federal government made clear this past week its intolerance to medical cannabis as well as its intolerance to the independence of local and state governments to decide their own public health policies. The irony of the U.S. Department of Justice issuing formal threats against the autonomy of local and state officials on the eve of Independence Day is not lost on many who are paying attention to this latest power grab by the federal government.
When was the last time you remember local and state officials being threatened en masse with criminal prosecution by the federal government for implementing their own public health laws? This egregious attempt by the fed to seize unwarranted authority over the states should be a concern not only to the medical cannabis patient community, but also to those who believe in the importance of local autonomy in a federalist system of democracy.
There are, however, historical demons in our states’ rights closet too, not the least of which is the amalgam of state laws enacted to resist federal desegregation efforts during the Civil Rights era. However, there must be ways to protect people from harm and bigotry using our federalist system of government, without ceding omnipotence to the fed and giving up the rights of states and their localities to care for the health and welfare of their people. There is no doubt that the fed is attempting to set a precedent that will allow them to usurp control from local and state governments and inhibit their ability to pass their own public health laws.
This is a time to rise up in opposition to the federal government and its abuse of authority. This is not a time to cower and buckle to intimidation. The States of Arizona, California, Montana, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Washington have either suspended or gutted parts of their medical cannabis programs in response to threats from U.S. Attorneys. However, the State of Delaware recently passed the country’s 16th medical cannabis law, including the licensing of distribution centers, despite awareness by the legislature and Governor Jack Markell that the new law contradicted parts of federal law. Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin signed a bill to regulate and license medical cannabis distribution centers in his state despite a threatening letter sent by U.S. Attorney Tristram Coffin to Vermont’s Public Safety Commissioner.
If local and state officials want to maintain their independence, they must take a cue from the States of Delaware and Vermont and stand up to the federal government. Governors, state attorneys general, legislators, county supervisors, city council members and others must join together and fight back against this latest encroachment.
To be sure, medical cannabis patients are not going away. If the federal government refuses to recognize the therapeutic benefits of cannabis and develop a sensible public health policy, then states must be allowed to do so in its place. As we celebrate our freedom from government tyranny on this July 4th, let’s also be resolute in our stand against tyrannical acts by the Obama Administration.