Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Federalism and Drug Policy

Radley Balko poses an interesting dilemma today, in his article posted on the Politico entitled, Federalism should extend to marijuana raids. In the closing paragraph he posits, "You can be a federalist, or you can be an ardent drug warrior. But you can't be both." He spends most of the piece discussing the the contradictory positions of both Giuliani and Thompson as advocates of a localized approach to a myriad of complicated "issues of the day," while also noting that the two have argued that the federal government needs even greater power to confront the issue of drugs. Is Balko right, that being a federalist and supporting the "War on Drugs" is a proposition that is mutually exclusive?

With the exception of many libertarian and a few conservative thinkers, i.e. W.F. Buckley, the advocacy of decriminalization of medical marijuana has largely been a task undertaken by the left. It is also one that the right has eyed with suspicion out of a fear that a slippery slope effect would promulgate numerous other drug decriminalizations . This, coupled with the inherent goal of seeing drug use reduced, has placed a majority of conservatives on a trajectory that may in fact betray our federalist instincts.

In this instance, I am inclined to stand with Justice Thomas and recognize that regardless of our opposition to medicinal marijuana, constitutionally, it is an issue that should be dealt with in the laboratories of policy.


  1. Before I went to law school, I thought Congress's power was unlimited. Then when I learned about Commerce Clause jurisprudence, I discovered that I was right.

  2. It does seem that way doesn't it Tim. I think this is one issue where my gut goes to the left (in terms of supporting the federalization the issue), but where my ideological convictions are pushing me to the right. I think the most important thing for us is consistency though, because giving up on federalist principles in even one case, has major we saw.