This article by Mark Meuser was originally published on The Orange County Register and appears here with permission.
President Biden recently announced that he was pardoning anyone who had been charged with simple possession of marijuana and no other crime. In doing so, Biden reignited the debate on whether marijuana should be descheduled. As a constitutionalist, it is clear that Congress never had the authority to make marijuana a federal crime to possess. Those who believe that the constitution is the supreme law of the land should be among the first to throw their support towards descheduling marijuana.
Many “law and order” Republicans have been slow to jump on the bandwagon to deschedule marijuana. There are many arguments out there, including the need to protect our children from marijuana’s harmful effects. However, just because something is harmful to children, does not mean that the federal government should be allowed to regulate the issue. Both tobacco and adult beverages have known dangers to children but the states have been allowed to regulate those industries with minimal interference from the federal government.
Regardless of the reason why Republicans do not want marijuana to be descheduled, there is one reason that they should get behind — to help restore the constitutional balance between the states and the federal government.
Our Founding Fathers understood the principle that, “Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it.” This is one of the reasons they established a federal government with limited enumerated powers. After much debate, they decided that states would handle issues regarding the health and welfare of the citizens. They did not want the federal government to be a national police force. With the U.S. Constitution, they established dueling governments, the federal government with certain enumerated rights, and state governments that would govern everything else. Under this system, they hoped to devise a system where no single politician or bureaucrat would have too much power over the liberties of Americans.
A good example of this limited federal jurisdiction over criminal laws can be seen by examining Congress’ reaction to the duel between Congressman Jonathan Cilley of Maine and Congressman William Graves of Kentucky. This duel had its origins in a speech that was made by Cilley on the floor of the House of Representatives. Graves took issue with the speech and eventually it led to the Congressmen appearing on the dueling grounds. Graves wounded Cilley and Cilley died of his wounds.
Congress and the nation were in an uproar after they heard about the duel. Not only was the press talking about the death of a congressman by a duel, but even the pastors in the pulpits were also admonishing their congregations on the evils of dueling. However, Congress did not respond with a bill to end dueling in the nation. Instead, they introduced a resolution to amend the constitution to give them the authority to regulate dueling at the federal level. However, after debate, they chose not even to vote on the amendment. Instead, Congress introduced and passed a law that outlawed dueling in the District of Columbia because, under Article 1, Section 8, Congress has exclusive jurisdiction over laws in D.C.
At a time when congress is divided on so many issues, the debate over descheduling marijuana should not be one of them. If Republicans believe that the Supreme Court was following the original intent of the constitution in deciding Dobbs, they should be the first in line to demand that congress relinquish the unconstitutional control that it has had over marijuana.
It is time to end this debate on the national level and send it to the individual states. Because of the smaller districts, state legislators are much more responsive to the needs of the people. For those who are concerned that the laws in their state will be written by the marijuana industry, we have seen time and time again that when our elected officials do not do their job, organizations of citizens will be established to educate their legislators. In 1980, M.A.D.D. was very effective in combatting the issue of drunk drivers in the legislators.
Our founding fathers did not want the federal police force. It is time that we return power to the states and deschedule marijuana now.
Mark Meuser is a constitutional attorney with the Dhillon Law Group. He is also the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate for California.
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