I haven’t really posted much on the subject over the past year or so, despite huge developments in federal enforcement, state law, the proliferation (until recently) in dispensaries, etc. I’ve been content to let the other blogs handle it, and Kym does an excellent job as does Woods’ on his list (if you’re interested in the issue, and you’re not on his email list, talk to him. He and his network keep very good track of the developments at all levels.).
Even though I live right in the center of the storm, I find myself bored with the issue on an intellectual level. Like other issues such as abortion and gun rights, nobody has said anything original or new in years. I just haven’t been inspired.
Well, this may not be a new thought, but it comes after a little bit of reflection over recent events.
I don’t believe that the recent wave of federal enforcement activity amounts to a new campaign. In my view, they will probably slow down again momentarily. I think they simply wanted to send some shock waves through to rattle the nerves of elected officials and landlords. I don’t think they hope to eliminate dispensaries altogether, but reduce them and control further expansion, particularly in the “red areas” where they catch the most flack for non-enforcement of federal laws. I expect that despite the Ammiano efforts, there won’t be any earth-shaking changes in policy, and I expect enforcement to taper off again now that local governments are passing moratoriums.
The response from legalization advocates? More state referendums. But I think this is a waste of time. Medical marijuana has passed in about 20 states, and the federal government has made pretty clear that it is non-responsive to any symbolic votes. The polls indicate that the majority in the US support legalization to some degree, but it has not reached the point where there are any serious political liabilities for opposing a change in policy so the momentum is with the status quo. I don’t think rallies or civil disobedience will make a difference here.
I’m certain that the advocate groups have already considered this, and maybe they’re working on it, but at this point the only changes will come from acts of Congress. And the only way you can get anything from Congress is to lobby. NORML and MPP have already begun to the transition of strategy. But I’m thinking that there really needs to be a coordinated federal lobby strategy, and that the bulk of the advocates’ resources should be put into hiring, yes, professional lobbyists with connections to key committee members, and to focus on the Barney Frank bill currently trapped in some committee which would essentially eliminate federal enforcement against individuals and entities compliant with their state laws. It’s not paradise, but it would represent a game-changing turn.
And I really do believe that state referendums are a complete waste of time at this point. Proposition 19’s failure (regardless of whom you blame) probably set up the political basis for the more recent federal raids. Most people, and TV pundits, don’t pay too much attention to the details of opposition. Legalization failed. That was the headline. And had it won, it would not have held up to federal law as the Supreme Court has already ruled that drug enforcement laws are Constitutional under the Commerce Clause. Lawsuits are a waste of resources. Referendums are a waste of time. You need high profile Congressional representatives calling for a change in policy. Bottom line.