« The many (impossible?) challenges of federal child pornography sentencing | Main | Ohio completes its 50th execution in modern era »

March 5, 2013

UN agency and former DEA officials complain about the end of pot prohibition in two states

As reported in this notable Wall Street Journal article, headlined "Government Urged to Act Over Pot Laws," there are some notable new folks making noise about the efforts by two US states to end pot prohibition. Here are the interesting details:

A United Nations agency and a group of former U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration heads pressed the U.S. government Tuesday to challenge laws making recreational pot use legal in Colorado and Washington state.

The U.N.'s International Narcotics Control Board, which monitors implementation of U.N. drug-control conventions, said in its 2012 annual report that the states' pot laws violate international narcotics conventions and that it "urges the Government of the United States to take the necessary measures to ensure full compliance with the international drug control treaties on its entire territory."

Separately Tuesday, eight former DEA administrators issued a joint warning that the government must act now or lose the chance to nullify the Colorado and Washington laws. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said last week he is in the last stages of reviewing the laws.

"We are urging Attorney General Holder, as he did in the case of the Arizona immigration law, to file a lawsuit challenging the Colorado and Washington laws without delay," said one of former DEA Administrators, Judge Robert Bonner, in the statement.

"It's not up to the U.S. Attorney General to decide that he is going to abandon the law; it is his job to enforce the law," said Peter Bensinger, another of the former DEA administrators, in an interview.

Both states are working on rules to codify how marijuana's production, processing and sale will be regulated after voters in the states last November passed ballot measures letting adults use pot recreationally.

"It doesn't change what we're doing," said Brian Smith, spokesman for the Washington State Liquor Control Board, which is formulating pot-use rules there.

"This is an over-reach by outside entities," said Colorado state Rep. Jonathan Singer, a legalization advocate. A spokesman for Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said the office had no comment.

As political observers know, in nearly all other settings, folks on the right side of the aisle are typically quick to complain if and whenever either the United Nations or a federal agency tries to dictate whether and how an independent US state seeks to conduct its legal business.   I sure hope, just because we are now dealing with state laws concerning the use and distribution of a plant — rather than, say, state laws concerning the use and distribution of firearms or state laws concerning the operation of the death penalty — that the folks on the right do not conveniently forget the usual states' rights mantra in opposition to UN meddling or big federal agency over-regulation of state business.

A few recent and older related posts: 

March 5, 2013 at 09:20 PM | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451574769e2017ee8f996f7970d

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference UN agency and former DEA officials complain about the end of pot prohibition in two states:

Comments

"I sure hope, just because we are now dealing with state laws concerning the use and distribution of a plant — rather than, say, state laws concerning the use and distribution of firearms or state laws concerning the operation of the death penalty — that the folks on the right do not conveniently forget the usual states' rights mantra in opposition to UN meddling or big federal agency over-regulation of state business."

I sure hope, just because we are now dealing with state laws concerning the use and distribution of very grooooovy pot — rather than, say, state laws concerning the use and distribution of firearms or state laws concerning the operation of the death penalty — that the folks on the left do not conveniently forget their usual devotion to international law and federal primacy mantra, and continue to support UN guidance and sound federal regulation of health concerns.

Ain't it fun how this hypocrisy charge can be so easily flipped?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 5, 2013 9:51:45 PM

It appears the U.N. has no regard for the (small "r") republican form of government that the United States incorporates, at least as much as left. The states, by themselves, cannot be a part of the U.N., as they have no jurisdictional authority. Within the U.S., though, the federal authorities can only legislate or adjudicate to a limited extent. In short, the U.N. cannot force Colorado/Washington to do anything. The fact that the majority of countries, whose mean size is the same as Colorado or Texas, find themselves dealing with a political anomaly.

Posted by: Eric Knight | Mar 5, 2013 9:59:51 PM

Eric Knight --

You are correct that the states cannot be bound by so-called international law, absent action by Congress that executes that law. The governing case is Medellín v. Texas, 552 U.S. 491 (2008), a 6-3 decision written by the Chief, and argued by two friends of mine, Paul Clement for the feds and (now Senator) Ted Cruz for Texas.

Eric Holder's proper response to Colorado and Washington is as follows: "I decline to advise you about matters of state law, that being no business of the Attorney General of the United States. My jurisdiction extends to the enforcement of federal law. You already know that federal law prohibits marijuana. You also already know that DOJ has enforced federal law in California and other states that allow so-called medical marijuana. It is not my policy to preemptively suspend or dismiss any part of federal law, since I do not make it. Congress makes it. That concludes my commentary on the matter."

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 5, 2013 10:20:06 PM

LOL.

Bill. You and I don't always agree but your first post in this thread was exactly my reaction. Doug is normally above such vapid troll bait but I guess not today.

/for the record, as a liberal, I agree with that these state laws have to go.
//on the other hand, the drug legalization issue is not going to go away. It is part of a generational shift.

Posted by: Daniel | Mar 6, 2013 1:09:31 PM

Daniel --

Thanks!

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 6, 2013 8:05:52 PM

I think we are long past time to have told the U.N. they have 72hrs to pack their shit and get out!

See if Europe or Africa or maybe asia wants to host them!

Not to mention pay for it!

Posted by: rodsmith | Mar 6, 2013 9:49:06 PM

rodsmith --

Maybe they should convene in Antarctica. At least it avoids the distractions of Manhattan.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 6, 2013 10:37:38 PM

"'We are urging Attorney General Holder, as he did in the case of the Arizona immigration law, to file a lawsuit challenging the Colorado and Washington laws without delay,' said one of former DEA Administrators, Judge Robert Bonner, in the statement."

On what possible grounds, pray tell? In addition to Medellín, already cited, there are also New York v. United States, 505 U.S. 144 (1992) and Printz v. United States, 521 U.S. 898 (1997) to contend with.

The Feds' most promising ground to challenge the Colorado and Washington initiatives would seem to lie not through DOJ, but Congress and the President instead - see South Dakota v. Dole, 483 U.S. 203 (1987)(upholding the National Minimum Drinking Age Act's provision to withhold a portion of federal highway funding from states that do not maintain a minimum legal drinking age of 21).

Posted by: C60 | Mar 7, 2013 4:00:47 PM

C60 --

I think the answer to this is easy: The feds should continue to enforce federal law to the same extent (namely, not much) that they would have without these state referendums.

A federal lawsuit is problematic legally, given the cases you cite, but is pointless in any event. The feds should do what they believe is best advised under federal law; as long as we have the Supremacy Clause, state law in just a non-factor. Holder should save himself the trouble of a lawsuit he'd have trouble winning, and which would have no practical significance even if he did win.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 7, 2013 8:13:23 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB