It certainly can make trouble, but it simply does not have the resources to bust a significant percentage of the state's marijuana offenders now, let alone after every adult is allowed to grow his own pot. If the DEA could not block access to medical marijuana under Bush or Obama, what chance will it have after the drug is legal for recreational purposes as well?
Money often gives conscience a helping hand. At the start of the 20th century half of all federal government revenue came from duties on alcohol, tobacco and playing cards. Two decades later, with newly-introduced income and business taxes, America could contemplate alcohol prohibition. Then in the 1930s, with the Great Depression weighing on tax revenues, booze was relegalised. Now, with alcohol and tobacco contributing just 1 per cent of federal receipts and 2 per cent of state incomes, the need for cash is helping to prod public policy along. Next month Californians will vote on Proposition 19 which, if passed, will allow the sale of marijuana to be regulated and taxed.
Estimating the budgetary impact of such policy changes is complicated by the lack of data on markets outside government control. Even in Portugal – the test case for treating drugs as a medical matter since usage for all drugs was decriminalised in 2001 – there is little to go on. Social measures have improved, particularly in relation to heroin use and drug-related deaths and disease, but the Portuguese have not yet tried full legalisation and taxation.
For the US, Harvard economist Jeffery Miron has estimated that taxing all illegal drugs at similar rates to alcohol and tobacco could raise about $30bn annually (for comparison, duties on the two legal pleasures will together contribute about $27bn to federal coffers this year). However, the hypothetical process requires many guesses at prices and demand.
More concrete is the cost side. Returning responsibility for drug policy to the individual states would allow the federal government to cut immediately the $16bn annually spent on enforcement, estimates Dr Miron. The states might redeploy resources, but collectively they spend $26bn each year on the drug war – California alone spent $5bn on the fight in 2008. Attractive terms for a truce.
During the 1890s and the early part of the 20th century, there was a powerful national campaign to abolish smoking that was no less intense than the drive for Prohibition. A key reason the campaign ultimately fizzled out in the 1920s was the government's need for tobacco tax revenues, especially after alcohol tax revenues dried up. The Republicans' cuts in income taxes in the 1920s also increased the federal government's dependence on tobacco tax revenues, which rose from 4 percent of federal receipts in 1920 to 11.2 percent in 1929. The onset of the Great Depression, the concomitant fall in income tax revenues, and the inelasticity of demand for cigarettes caused tobacco revenues to rise to 20.7 percent of all federal receipts by 1932.
In the end, revenue needs trumped sumptuary considerations in the cases of both alcohol and tobacco. This raises the interesting question of whether revenue considerations will drive reform of the laws against illegal drugs.
He also said that legalizing recreational marijuana in California would be a "significant impediment" to the government's joint efforts with state and local law enforcement to target drug traffickers, who often distribute marijuana alongside cocaine and other drugs.
Federal law trumps state laws. What if South Carolina passed a new law allowing slavery?
The status quo in our state is good enough that I'd prefer to wait for something better to come along.
And as we saw in the US Attorney firing scandal, they have an expectation of a certain level of autonomy from political appointees like Eric Holder.
The flaw in the SC slavery argument is that the SC law would infringe on federal rights which the federal courts would defend
Ok, gotcha. Obama is pandering to Ohio independents by sending the DEA thugs to execute early morning raids in my home state. A cunning political move, no doubt. Do I get to vote against him now, or will that still make me a bad liberal?
Put simply, Obama does not use drugs. I've never once heard him say he was for legalization. Ever.
I'm also frustrated by everyone who is unhappy with Obama referring to themselves as his "base." Please do not do that. You are people who oppose him.
But most of all you are angry that he has done everything he said he would about as effectively as is possible. Stimulus? Passed. Health Care Reform? Passed. Wall Street Reform? Passed. All in the very teeth of GOP opposition and all within 600 days of taking office.
I'm the definition of a lefty pothead Obamabot, his decision to stop the federal raids of the medical pot providers was concrete action that has done a lot to push progress on my pet issue.
"Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said Friday his deputies’ marijuana enforcement would not change even if Proposition 19, which would legalize the drug in California, passes Nov. 2.
“Proposition 19 is not going to pass, even if it passes,” Baca said in a news conference Friday at sheriff's headquarters in Monterey Park.
Baca, whose department polices three-fourths of the county, was bolstered Friday by an announcement from the Obama administration that federal officials would continue to “vigorously enforce” marijuana laws in California, even if state voters pass the measure.
Baca said the proposition was superseded by federal law and if passed, would be found unconstitutional.
Flanked by other opponents of the measure, including Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley, Baca made a colorful assault on marijuana use and sales. Asked if he had ever experimented with the drug, Baca was unequivocal. “Hell no,” he said...
...Baca said Friday local law enforcement agencies should abide by federal drug laws prohibiting marijuana even if the state measure passes.
“[Prop.] 19 has no effect on what we’re going to do,” he said."
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