Americans have differing opinions about the wisdom of marijuana legalization but most of us would agree that no matter what we think about it personally, it is an issue for Americans to decide.
So, an admonishment by a United Nations agency urging the U.S. government to sue the states of Colorado and Washington, whose citizens recently voted to support pot legalization in their states, should be dismissed out of hand as the carnival sideshow that it is, right?
If only it were that easy.
You see, while such decisions should be left for Americans and states to decide on their own, decades of allowing our leaders to strike bargains (otherwise known as “treaties”) with the UN has created an impediment to liberty, thus allowing an unelected global body a say in our country’s political processes. Some call that “civilized” and “reasonable;” George Washington called such arrangements an “entangling alliance” we should strive to avoid.
Then there is that federal law regarding marijuana…
Nevertheless, the International Narcotics Control Board is now prodding the U.S. government to challenge Colorado and Washington in court over pot legalization for recreational use in those states because the agency says the laws violate international drug treaties, The Seattle Times reported.
The INCB (which seems an inappropriate agency to make the complaint considering pot is not a narcotic) made its recommendation in an annual drug report. Officials called on Washington to act quickly to “ensure full compliance with the international drug control treaties on its entire territory.”
In late February, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said he was in the final stages of reviewing the state laws, adding that he was looking at policy options as well as international implications of the laws’ passage. Meanwhile, marijuana possession and use remains illegal under federal law; based on this Justice Department’s history,states have to pass their own illegal immigration and voting registration laws to get sued by the Feds.
In any event, because pot is still illegal on the federal level, Holder and Justice could decide to sue – or not. Given that Holder’s boss, President Obama, has freely admitted he smoked copious amounts of weed during his younger days (“I inhaled frequently. That was the point.”) and that he has said prosecuting Colorado and Washington state over their laws is not on his radar, chances are good that there won’t be any subpoenas delivered to their capitals anytime soon.
“We’ve got bigger fish to fry,” Obama told ABC News shortly after the laws passed. “It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that it’s legal.” (So, is he saying state laws now trump federal laws – at least, when the violation is one he agrees with?)
Just pointing out the obvious?
It may be none of the UN’s business (and it wouldn’t be, were it not for that pesky treaty), but at least someone is attempting to hold Obama and his Justice Department accountable to the rule of law, and not just when it suits them.
“The entire international system is based on countries respecting the rules, and there’s a broad fabric of international treaties that are part and parcel to that,” said David Johnson, the U.S. delegate to the Vienna-based board.
The role of the UN board is to act as an “independent” monitoring body, monitoring for compliance with and implementation of United Nations drug control conventions. Raymond Yans, the head of the agency, has also called on Holder to do his job and challenge the laws in both states shortly after voters approved them in November.
Granted, there are plenty of Americans who are in agreement with Colorado and Washington for legalizing marijuana, as well as with the Obama administration’s decision to pass (so far) on prosecuting them for passing a drug law in violation of federal law. But the point here is this: Americans live by the rule of law. As president,Obama is the nation’s chief law enforcement officer (EDITOR’S NOTE: THIS ISN’T TECHNICALLY TRUE; IT’S HOLDER); he should not be deciding which laws he wants to enforce and which laws he wants to ignore because he simply doesn’t agree with them.
So the path forward is clear: Repeal the federal prohibition against marijuana possession and usage, and withdraw from UN drug treaties. That may sting a bit on the international geopolitical scene (remember, part of our effort in Afghanistan is an anti-drug effort aimed at interdicting heroin production), but at least we won’t have a president who is being hypocritical on the issue.
It shouldn’t take a UN treaty or a global agency to remind our leaders how to govern.