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September 22, 2010

Top House Republican complaining that Obama administration is not fighting drug war hard enough

As detailed in this report from The Hill, which is headlined "Republican: Obama administration fosters use of marijuana," at least one House Republican wants the Obama Administration to keep growing one part of the federal government:

Rep. Lamar Smith (Texas) accused the administration of being too lax in its enforcement of drug laws.  President Obama's drug policies are encouraging increased marijuana use, a top Republican lawmaker charged Tuesday.

Rep. Lamar Smith (Texas), the top Republican member of the House Judiciary Committee who would likely become chairman of the committee under a GOP majority, accused the administration of being too lax in its enforcement of drug laws.  "The administration is clearly sending the message that they don't think it's bad to use marijuana," Smith said on Fox News. "So they're encouraging the use of marijuana.  And that simply is not a good thing to do."

Smith blamed the administration's decision to not enforce federal laws against marijuana dispensaries in states that have legalized the drug for medicinal purposes.  Smith blamed the administration's approach on drug laws for recent statistics showing an increased use of marijuana.

"We ought to be enforcing our drug laws, not backing away from them," said Smith, who also lamented a recent revision of criminal sentencing guidelines that reduced sentencing guidelines for crack-cocaine traffickers.  Proponents of the law in both parties had pushed that reform because sentencing for crack-related drug crimes were much more severe than for similar amounts of cocaine, a disparity which fueled a racial divide in drug sentencing.

As this article highlights, a Republican take-over of the House of Representatives this fall would likely result in Representative Lamar Smith becoming the chair of the House Judiciary Committee.  And Representative Smith has long been a vocal proponent of the war on drugs and an array of other tough-on-crimes measures that have increased the severity and scope of the federal criminal justice system. 

September 22, 2010 at 07:54 AM | Permalink


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Yup, it will almost certainly be Chairman Lamar Smith if the Republicans win. Better to keep Pelosi ("We'll find out what's in the bill after we pass it"), Conyers, Charlie Rangel (when he gets back from his ethics, umm, troubles), Maxine Waters (ditto), Pete Stark (has he punched anyone lately?), Barney Frank (at least he finally evicted the "escort service" from his basement), Alcee Hastings (never one to be bothered by impeachment), Blago (oh, wait, he moved on to an even more lucrative source for making dough)...........

There is a reason every survey out there finds that trust in Congress is nearing single digits, and it has zilch to do with Lamar Smith.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Sep 22, 2010 9:02:29 AM

Yes, while people in the Tea Party complain about how the government is taking their liberty away, it will behoove them to vote for people who will work harder to take their liberty away.

We really don't want to have a battle about who's party has worse ethics, do we? Let us also forget that it is the Democrats' push for ethics reform that has led to the current two investigations even getting off and running. Boehner has reportedly rather deal with his side's ethics "behind the scenes."

Posted by: Joe | Sep 22, 2010 9:59:03 AM

Joe --

I didn't know there was a Constitutional right to get stoned. Justice Stevens must have missed that when he wrote the majority opinion in Gonzales v. Raich (with all the Court's liberals going along).

Posted by: Bill Otis | Sep 22, 2010 10:24:54 AM

There may not be a Constitutional right to get stoned, but 40 years of the war on drugs has seriously eroded just about every other Constitutional right. But I think that there also could be a pretty strong argument made that drug use is a public health and safety issue which are traditionally left to the states to regulate.

Posted by: Ala JD | Sep 22, 2010 10:51:55 AM

Leave it to Bill's classic cat and mouse tactics. Someone talks about how the drug war erodes "liberty" and Bill responds with a post on the poster's alleged belief on "a Constitutional right to get stoned." Classic. Predictable. Unfortunate.

Posted by: Anon | Sep 22, 2010 11:50:00 AM

Bill's first comment is the one that gets my goat. Before I read the comments, I was hoping that people educated about crim justice issues (generally readers of this site) would acknowledge that lamar smith's comments were absolute political BS and not seek to defend them. lamar's comment on the crack/powder change is simply unjustifiable from a policy perspective and Bill should know that. But rather than accept that as a fact Bill you attempt to back door justify Lamar's crap by pointing out that the dems in control have their own special brand of idiocy. I agree with you that they are all idiots, but you are not compelled to join them. Please dont.

Posted by: KRG def attny | Sep 22, 2010 1:12:57 PM

Anon --

If the Framers' conception of liberty included the right to get stoned -- whether or not in the Constitution (it isn't) -- I haven't been able to find a source for it. Is there a discussion about getting blasted in the Federalist Papers or something?

The posturing you druggies do is amusing but unconvincing. There are a few genuine libertarians like my colleague Prof. Randy Barnett who want legalization as a matter of principle. But the majority camp under the flag of principle while what they really want is to get stoned. Then they make like that's every bit as important and noble as the civil rights movement.

Sure it is.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Sep 22, 2010 1:43:56 PM

I have absolutely no desire to "get stoned". If and when marijuana is legal (or even now when it's not), I will choose to not partake in the product. But I do believe the oulawing of possessing or smoking a plant in the privacy of my own home, should I want to do so, as an infringement of personal liberty.

Posted by: Anon | Sep 22, 2010 3:36:51 PM

What passes for "argument" by Bill O. makes me wonder how he ever functioned as a lawyer. Point: "The legislature should legalize marijuana." Bill's counterpoint: "There is no constitutional right to get stoned."

Yes, Bill, that's right, but no one ever said there was. Did the knocking-down-a-strawman approach to argument really work for you when you practiced law?

Posted by: lawyer | Sep 22, 2010 6:04:32 PM

And Bill's propensity for hypocrisy raises its head again. He's always harping about people making personal attacks in lieu of reasoned arguments. But then he calls those who support legalization of marijuana "you druggies." As if it's impossible to want your taxpayer dollars put to better use than to prosecute marijuana offenses without being a "druggie" yourself.

Posted by: lawyer | Sep 22, 2010 6:10:37 PM

although I do not use Marijuana I am another who supports the legalization of marijuana. How much longer do we continue fighting the drug war? How much longer do we keep making the Mexican drug lords richer? How much longer do we keep clogging our courts with marijuana cases? How many kids/young adults do we keep giving permanent criminal records to for marijuana possession? Do these beliefs also make me a "druggie"


Posted by: Anon | Sep 22, 2010 7:10:59 PM

lawyer --

"What passes for 'argument' by Bill O. makes me wonder how he ever functioned as a lawyer."

It's easy as pie to find out. Go read my cases. They're easy to find, since unlike you and your understandable desire to remain anonymous, I use my real name.

Happy hunting!

Posted by: Bill Otis | Sep 22, 2010 9:53:42 PM

I do think that there is a constitutional dimension here in various cases [e.g., medicinal use or federalism concerns] but "liberty" is not only a matter of what the Constitution demands. If the Constitution allowed five year sentences for possession of a joint, it would be a threat to liberty all the same.

Posted by: Joe | Sep 23, 2010 9:14:56 AM

Joe --

Is the criminalization of methamphetamine also "a threat to liberty"? If not, why not?

It's true that most people (correctly) view meth as more dangerous than dope, but is it not an infringement on individual rights for the GOVERNMENT to make that decision rather than leaving it to each person? Why shouldn't I be able to decide for myself whether I want to use meth, even with its risks, rather than have the government decide for me and put me in jail if I disagree with its conclusion?

The jail in which I'd wind up would be just as unpleasant and freedom-squashing as the jail housing dopers.

Thus, in the name of a fully robust freedom, shouldn't we also de-criminalize meth? And heroin, crack, LSD, and ecstasy?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Sep 23, 2010 10:16:10 AM

Perhaps no one better exemplifies an archetypal demagogue than Lamar Smith.

I'm all for legalization of marijuana and would love to use it if it were legal, but I wouldn't. Couldn't. Asthma.

Joe, "liberty" in Tea Party means taxes...and not having to pay them. Nothing more.

Posted by: John K | Sep 23, 2010 2:42:35 PM

John K --

Since Joe seems to be having a bit of trouble responding to my questions, maybe you could help him out. What is your answer?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Sep 23, 2010 8:24:01 PM

I am simply a patient in need of relief. To even compare a joint to meth or other harmful substances is just ridiculous! I am not a "druggie" in search of a high. I worked a 40+ hr. a week job... finished an apprenticeship at a major company and fell at work. Through which I learned I have a brain malformation. I have had two brain surgeries... over 15 surgeries in the last 15 years... scheduled for two more, and more to come if I survive them. My liver is damaged from prescription drugs and I cannot tolerate them any more than I can tolerate the pain! The chemical reaction that occurs in my brain when I smoke cannabis helps me to relax, lessens my pain, gives me an appetite, and allows me to rest more comfortably... Sir, are you saying I should lay awake in my bed and cry every night because there is no legal alternative? Where does the constitution say you and your kind the right to impose your narrow-minded, ill informed opinions upon voters? I thought it was your job to do the will of the people... You threaten with your stiff penalties and spread false propaganda as though Americans have no common sense or self control. You KNOW that alcohol and cigarettes are far more dangerous yet they remain available to the public and KILL Americans everyday... If you are soo worried about the health and welfare of Americans, why aren't you attacking the alcohol industry? Or the tabacco companies??? Rep. Lamar Smith of TX, you are a hypocrite. I don't know who lines your pockets, but you aren't stopping anyone from smoking cannabis.. you are just making your buddies across the border rich. You are labeling honest, hard working people as criminals. You aren't doing the will of the people.. you are promoting your own agenda. Science says YOU are a LIAR as the benefits of the drug cannabis are WELL documented.. It is my sincerest hope that someone you love more than life itself is stricken with an illness that cannabis helps... I want you to watch them suffer... and experience what my children have been forced to endure. Maybe if it were to hit home, your narrow mind would see the light. I am a sick patient who uses cannabis to relieve pain and improve my quality of life and I am not ashamed. However, you sir, should be.

Posted by: Carol Kerr | Sep 24, 2010 10:37:18 PM

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