As the Trump administration tackles new ground, many wonder how the new President will approach the recent legalization of marijuana in states around the country. With Colorado and Washington voting to legalize the drug, it seems more and more states are looking to shift in that direction. There is certainly a great deal of buzz surrounding legalization, but does that mean it’s the right course of action? As the Trump administration moves forward, they must find the right balance between a lack of action and government overreach.
Under the Obama administration, the federal government left the legalization debate largely up to the states. United States’ incarceration figures are higher than any other country in the world. In 2012 alone, there were 658,000 arrests for marijuana possession. Arresting and incarcerating users necessitates a substantial amount of law enforcement time and manpower, not to mention billions of dollars each year. Many in favor of legalization argue the benefits, citing the possibility of increased tax revenue. Currently, drug enforcement operations are handled largely at the state and local level. Trump has yet to take a hard stance on the matter. In 2015, he was quoted in saying the issue should be left up to the states, though he seems to have since walked that back.
As determined in the Controlled Substance Act, the federal government continues to classify marijuana as an illegal substance. According to Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer, we can expect to see greater enforcement of federal law in that regard. In his statement, Spicer also referenced our nation’s staggering statics for Opioid and pain killer use. He noted that, in allowing states to act as they please, the administration might come off as condoning recreational drug use. The administration is wise to caution the endorsement of marijuana legalization. While there are some medical applications for marijuana, there are also many proven negative effects. There’s strong support for congress to take a stand. With marijuana classified by the federal government as illegal, it’s odd to have an unenforced law on the books.
Legalization is a complicated issue, and I’m sure Americans will continue to debate the best course of action well into the foreseeable future. We want to do what is best for the country as a whole but remain wary of dismissing states’ rights. The tenth amendment reserves all powers not delegated to the federal government in the Constitution are held by the states, and politically, I believe a government which governs less governs best. While I don't feel full legalization of marijuana is a wise policy choice, I believe this issue may be handled best if left to states. My principal concern with marijuana is that it kills ambition. I have many young clients who are non-violent, kind people, but their frequent marijuana use has left them unable push themselves and achieve their goals. According to the American Medical Association, in moderate amounts alcohol can actually benefit your health. On the other hand, there have yet to be any proven health benefits to marijuana use (aside from certain medical uses, which we all can agree should be legal to those who need it for that purpose).
The beauty of federalism is that, according to the tenth amendment, each state has the right to determine any issues not specifically given to the federal government. This specific area of law is not as cut and dry because there are federal implications at play. Congress should act to clarify whether or not states have the power to determine marijuana's legalization, as right now there is uneven enforcement of federal law. We will see in the next few months how congress and the Trump administration choose to act on the matter.
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Co-written by Keighly Laney and Chris Reid. Keighly is the Director of Marketing at Reid Law Firm and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Chris can be reached at email@example.com for comments regarding this article.
Our firm practices the following areas of law: wills, trust, and estates, divorce and family, DUI and drug offenses (only first and second time offenses), and car accident cases. We also handle business law, including formation of business entities and drafting contracts. Additionally, I co-host Yellowhammer News every Monday during lunch from 11-12 on 101.1 fm Birmingham (but our show is broadcast throughout most of the state).