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State Regulation of Marijuana

Congressman McClintock offered an amendment on the state regulation of marijuana to H.R. 2578 – FY16 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Act.  The amendment was defeated by a vote of 206 – 222.

Congressman’s McClintock’s House floor remarks introducing the amendment:

“This amendment is NOT an endorsement of marijuana.  I’ve never used it; my wife and I raised our children never to use it.  And I believe local schools should assure that every American is aware of the risks and dangers that it poses.

This amendment addresses a larger question: whether the Federal government has the constitutional authority to dictate a policy to states on matters that occur strictly within their own borders.  I believe that it does not.  And even if it does, I believe that it should not.

In 1932, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis described the beauty of the Tenth Amendment this way: “A state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.”

That’s exactly what states like Colorado and Oregon have done with legalization, and what many more have done with aspects of it.  They believe that the harm that might be done by easier access to this drug is outweighed by the benefits of removing the violent underground economy that prohibition has caused.

I don’t know if they are right or wrong.  But I’d like to find out; and their experience will inform the rest of us.

The federal government has legitimate authority to protect neighboring states by forbidding transport across state lines, which this amendment protects.  But at the same time, it protects the right of a state’s citizens to make this decision within their own boundaries.

It is not necessary for us to debate federal policy over marijuana because this amendment does not change federal policy in any legitimate federal jurisdiction.  The arguments we hear from opponents ought to be made in state legislatures.

This amendment does not affect our marijuana laws in federal districts or territories; it does not affect our laws involving interstate commerce or over federal land or over the importation of marijuana from abroad.

It only affects jurisdiction that is strictly and solely the rightful province of the states as pertains to affairs strictly and solely conducted within their own borders.

The question is over the right of their people to have these debates, to make these decisions, and for the rest of the nation to observe and benefit from their outcome for good or ill.

We either believe in the Tenth Amendment or we do not.  We either believe in Federalism or we do not.  We either believe in Freedom or we do not.”

Update: The State of California passed three laws to regulate medical marijuana on October 9, 2015.