Let states set their own marijuana laws

  • Wednesday, January 17, 2018 6:00am
  • Opinion

The Trump administration’s reversal of Obama’s hands-off approach to enforcement of marijuana laws isn’t likely to have much effect on Whidbey Island, at least for the foreseeable future. It makes sense that the sheriff and Whidbey pot shop owners aren’t changing how they do business.

As Sheriff Mark Brown said, it’s unlikely that DEA agents will be breaking down doors of Whidbey pot shops or ripping bongs from people’s hands. At least not anytime soon.

The lack of uncertainty, however, is just bad public policy.

It’s time for Congress to take the issue seriously and change the law to allow states to make their own decisions when it comes to marijuana. When he was a candidate for president, Donald Trump vowed to honor state’s rights when it came to pot. And he was right.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently rescinded the Cole Memo, an Obama-era document that outlines how states could avoid federal prosecutions of recreational marijuana operations by keeping the drug away from minors and ensuring it does not go to other states or into organized crime.

Lawmakers should look to the Cole Memo in crafting a change in marijuana-related law.

Washington was one of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana and many other states followed. The sheer number says something. Currently, at least 30 states and the District of Columbia legalize pot in some way, whether recreational or medical.

Everyone’s heard the arguments for legalizing pot. It’s much less harmful to people’s health than alcohol. It can treat any number of disorders. Pot prohibition has enormous social costs. Pot laws are expensive to enforce. Legalization cuts a source of income for organized crime. And on and on.

There’s also a financial consideration.

Taxes and license fees on marijuana generated $300 million for Washington state in the last fiscal year, the Spokesman Review reports. More than half is earmarked for state health care programs.

On the other side, people worry that legalization legitimizes a drug and encourages young people to use.

Republicans say they want to protect states’ rights. It’s about making decisions on a smaller level that allows states to protect their values.

Let the states navigate the arguments for themselves.

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