Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Christie, Pot, and the Rule of Law

 

shutterstock_133014050As Ricochet member ShellGamer wrote late last year, Colorado and Washington’s (and now Alaska’s) legalization of marijuana has both created and exposed a constitutional mess. In brief, neighboring states are suing the Obama Administration for its policy of turning a blind eye to federal drug laws. Meanwhile, Congress shrugs its shoulders and acts uninterested in either forcing the president to enforce the law, or in repealing or amending it. If elected president Governor Chris Christie says he’ll have none of it:

“If you’re getting high in Colorado today, enjoy it,” Christie, a Republican campaigning for the 2016 presidential nomination, said Tuesday during a town-hall meeting at the Salt Hill Pub in Newport, New Hampshire. “As of January 2017, I will enforce the federal laws.” […] “That’s lawlessness,” he said. “If you want to change the marijuana laws, go ahead and change the national marijuana laws.”

Christie certainly has an argument, especially on that last point: when confronted with genuinely bad laws, the proper response should always be to repeal or reform. Keeping laws you don’t plan to enforce on the books encourages lawbreaking in general, and invites caprice on the part of enforcement. If one thing unites the entire spectrum of the right, from anarcho-capitalists to NeoCons, it’s the belief that the rule of law matters.

This isn’t the first time Christie has promised to do this. As he told Hugh Hewitt back in April:

Hewitt: If you’re the president of the United States, are you going to enforce the federal drug laws in those states?

Christie: Absolutely. I will crack down and not permit it.

Hewitt: Alright, next, the–

Christie: [interrupting] Marijuana is a gateway drug. We have enormous addiction problem in this country and we need to send very clear leadership from the White House on down to Federal law enforcement: Marijuana is an illegal drug under federal law and the states should not be allowed to profit from it.

In his eagerness to enforce federal law, Christie seems to be ignoring a related question: was Congress acting within its constitutional authority when it passed the Controlled Substances Act? It’s certainly difficult to find an explicit granting of such power in Article 1, Section 8 and impossible to do so if you want the document to restrict Congress in any meaningful way. Moreover, it at least seems notable that the prohibitionists sought and won a constitutional amendment in order to ban alcohol, an amendment that has (blessedly) since been overturned. Shouldn’t someone concerned with the strict enforcement of the rule of law at least consider that matter?

In the meantime, however Christie is right: the federal government should enforce the laws on the books. And — while it doesn’t sound like this would fly past a President Christie — perhaps the best way to get rid of the law is the spectacle of having federales arrest peaceable citizens whose actions don’t concern the federal government and are in accord with their state’s laws.

Image Credit: L.E.MORMILE / Shutterstock.com

There are 49 comments.

  1. Z in MT Inactive

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: If one thing unites the entire spectrum of the right, from anarcho-capitalists to NeoCons, it’s the belief that the rule of law matters.

    I am singling out Mike H., but he has recently posted to the contrary.

    • #1
    • July 29, 2015, at 12:08 PM PDT
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  2. Austin Murrey Inactive

    Speaking of waving the red flag in front of the bull!

    The problem is I both agree with Christie’s position (we should fairly and firmly enforce federal law) and the position of the Colorado (marijuana should be legal).

    Maybe the Republican congress could pass a marijuana legalization bill and pass it up to Obama? That’s one congressional action I could actually support.

    • #2
    • July 29, 2015, at 12:11 PM PDT
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  3. Z in MT Inactive

    To the Constitutional point. I think that even a very strict originalist interpretation of the Commerce Clause would allow the Federal government to ban the sale of marijuana and/or alcohol across state lines.

    • #3
    • July 29, 2015, at 12:13 PM PDT
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  4. 1967mustangman Inactive

    Don’t forget Oregon!

    • #4
    • July 29, 2015, at 12:16 PM PDT
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  5. The (apathetic) King Prawn Inactive

    Z in MT:To the Constitutional point. I think that even a very strict originalist interpretation of the Commerce Clause would allow the Federal government to ban the sale of marijuana and/or alcohol across state lines.

    Across state lines, yes. Within an individual state, no.

    • #5
    • July 29, 2015, at 12:21 PM PDT
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  6. Manny Member

    Christie could be a good president, He’s absolutely right both on enforcing the rule of law and not legalizing drugs. If only he didn’t hug Obama and throw the election, I could support him. But that hug was catastrophic. At least for the Republican primary.

    • #6
    • July 29, 2015, at 12:25 PM PDT
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  7. Nick Stuart Inactive

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: perhaps the best way to get rid of the law is the spectacle of having federales arrest peaceable citizens whose actions don’t concern the federal government and are in accord with their state’s laws.

    Probably not. Happens all the time. As long as it’s Jesus y Maria, LeShawn and Yolanda getting sent to Stateville and Dwight, doing hard time and making interesting new friends, the voters (including apparently, Jesus, Maria, LeShawn and Yolanda’s families) don’t seem to give a [CoC redacted verb]

    But when it’s Ashley and Jordan, the soccer moms and dads cash in the college fund for legal representation to get them a suspended sentence and community service. And they don’t give a [CoC redacted verb] about changing the laws either, just getting Ashley and Jordan off the hook.

    Christie looks like a man who enjoys his vices, he just doesn’t want you to enjoy yours.

    • #7
    • July 29, 2015, at 12:27 PM PDT
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  8. Spin Coolidge
    Spin Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Nick Stuart: Christie looks like a man who enjoys his vices, he just doesn’t want you to enjoy yours.

    I was about to say, when he’s shown us he can lay off the chips and hit the gym, he can start moralizing about pot.

    • #8
    • July 29, 2015, at 12:35 PM PDT
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  9. Spin Coolidge
    Spin Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I live in Washington (state), and on my commute to and from work there are three stores that sell pot. What is Christie going to do? Send in the BATF and raid those stores? Really? The world is on fire and that’s what he’s going to do? And somehow, we think he’s right to do that? Poppycock.

    • #9
    • July 29, 2015, at 12:37 PM PDT
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  10. zepplinmike Inactive

    The rule of law is certainly important to a just society, but it also doesn’t exist in the United States anymore. I don’t know when exactly it went away, but it was definitely gone by the time the Supreme Court decided that the words in laws don’t really mean what they say a couple of weeks ago. What we live under now is rule of courts and executives (the legislative bodies gave up their power to the other two branches a while back).

    Knowing that the people in power will flaunt the law left and right to achieve their desired ends, I find it difficult to say that I should follow a law simply because it’s the law, regardless of its specific merit. I of course will weigh things like my desire to break that law, the risk of being caught, and the moral questions that come into play, but just saying “the law is the law” doesn’t really apply to our modern society, unfortunately. I wish it did.

    • #10
    • July 29, 2015, at 1:04 PM PDT
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  11. Jamie Lockett Inactive

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: Christie: [interrupting] Marijuana is a gateway drug. We have enormous addiction problem in this country and we need to send very clear leadership from the White House on down to Federal law enforcement: Marijuana is an illegal drug under federal law and the states should not be allowed to profit from it.

    And its things like this that demonstrate why I could never be a Republican. Not only does he know nothing about marijuana as a drug, he completely ignores all the evidence that “gateway” drugs are a fallacy and the unbelievable destructiveness of the War on Drugs.

    • #11
    • July 29, 2015, at 1:13 PM PDT
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  12. gts109 Member

    Christie baffles me. His big issue is to jackboot popular state level policies with tough federal enforcement of constitutionally questionable laws? Can he just exit the race already, please?

    • #12
    • July 29, 2015, at 1:15 PM PDT
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  13. Franco Member
    Franco Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: Christie: [interrupting] Marijuana is a gateway drug. We have enormous addiction problem in this country and we need to send very clear leadership from the White House on down to Federal law enforcement: Marijuana is an illegal drug under federal law and the states should not be allowed to profit from it.

    This is absolute disinformation that marijuana is a “gateway” drug. Christie is a moron. But he’s so convincing in his delivery! I’ll say that.

    We may well have an enormous addiction problem in this country, alcoholism being the largest societal problem affecting the most people – don’t really know what’s the gateway to alcohol, Coke, or Pepsi? – French fries are a gateway drug to obesity.

    They can’t actually control drugs in this state – anyone can get marijuana.

    Electing a fat-bully prosecutor Governor is apparently a gateway to higher taxes in New Jersey, despite him being a Republican.

    The taxes are so hugh people are leaving, but get this – there is an exit tax for moving out of the State.

    He’s looking at outdated 1980’s studies on Mary Jane and 2011 polls on his Presidential prospects. Good luck with that one Chrispy Cream!

    • #13
    • July 29, 2015, at 1:31 PM PDT
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  14. Misthiocracy grudgingly Member
    Misthiocracy grudgingly Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: In his eagerness to enforce federal law, Christie seems to be ignoring a related question: was Congress acting within its constitutional authority when it passed the Controlled Substances Act?

    This.

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: In the meantime, however Christie is right: the federal government should enforce the laws on the books.

    Wait a minute, you’re arguing that the President should violate his oath of office by enforcing (arguably) unconstitutional laws?

    • #14
    • July 29, 2015, at 1:47 PM PDT
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  15. Misthiocracy grudgingly Member
    Misthiocracy grudgingly Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Austin Murrey: we should fairly and firmly enforce federal law

    “We” don’t enforce federal law. The executive branch of the federal government enforces federal law. “We” are not the executive branch of the federal government.

    • #15
    • July 29, 2015, at 1:48 PM PDT
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  16. Tuck Inactive

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: In the meantime, however Christie is right: the federal government should enforce the laws on the books.

    Be careful what you wish for. If the Feds enforced all the laws on the books—and no-one knows how many there are—we would be in a Totalitarian society the likes of which the world had never seen.

    The Rule of Law in America is long dead, but one of the major points in killing it was when pot was banned without a Constitutional amendment. Why did we need an 18th amendment? Because pre-Progressive America agreed the Feds had no power to ban substances like alcohol or pot.

    So no, Christie’s not right. He’s a Progressive blow-hard. And he’s certainly not a Conservative.

    • #16
    • July 29, 2015, at 2:23 PM PDT
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  17. Concretevol Thatcher

    Spin:

    Nick Stuart: Christie looks like a man who enjoys his vices, he just doesn’t want you to enjoy yours.

    I was about to say, when he’s shown us he can lay off the chips and hit the gym, he can start moralizing about pot.

    WOW, feel the love!

    Seriously if he was enjoying the pot too imagine adding all that taco bell and Krystle’s to his diet!

    • #17
    • July 29, 2015, at 2:25 PM PDT
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  18. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    Misthiocracy:

    Austin Murrey: we should fairly and firmly enforce federal law

    “We” don’t enforce federal law. The executive branch of the federal government enforces federal law. “We” are not the executive branch of the federal government.

    Hey, Mis, this strikes me as pedantry, up with which I shall not put!

    It’s clear that, in context, AM meant that the feds should enforce federal law.

    • #18
    • July 29, 2015, at 2:34 PM PDT
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  19. Concretevol Thatcher

    I think it must depend on what “gateway drug” means for you guys to blow that off so easily. If by “gateway” you mean the drug that pretty much all addicts to harder narcotics started with then yeah, it’s a gateway drug. If you mean it is a guarantor of future addiction to stronger narcotics if used then, no its not.

    No matter what my thoughts on legalization, this is NOT a matter for the Feds. Should be up to the states.

    • #19
    • July 29, 2015, at 2:36 PM PDT
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  20. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    Spin:I live in Washington (state), and on my commute to and from work there are three stores that sell pot. What is Christie going to do? Send in the BATF and raid those stores? Really? The world is on fire and that’s what he’s going to do? And somehow, we think he’s right to do that? Poppycock.

    Yep, raid the stores, and seize their assets under the forfeiture laws.

    Let’s be really clear about what is going on: People and businesses in several states are knowingly and openly flaunting federal law. The Obama administration is ignoring this, but absent action by Congress, it remains unambiguously illegal to sell marijuana. Personally, I will have no sympathy for these pushers of illegal drugs if a future administration brings down the hammer on them, and they look like a good source of federal government revenue.

    • #20
    • July 29, 2015, at 2:39 PM PDT
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  21. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    To be clear on where I stand personally on the marijuana issue: I would prefer for this to be decided at the state level, with federal law amended accordingly. The changes to federal law should include provisions dealing with the problems of interstate transportation of marijuana from states where it is legal to states where it is not.

    I do not like “medical” marijuana laws, which strike me as fundamentally dishonest, in that I suspect that the bulk of “medical” users are simply gaming the system. Williamson and Cooke had a good discussion on this in the Mad Dogs & Englishmen podcast.

    I’m also generally opposed to increased taxation, and I don’t know the rules currently applicable to marijuana in legalization states, but it seems to me that a federal tax on marijuana in states in which it is legal might be a good idea. It would be strange to me if a doobie were taxed less than a cigarette, and the taxes could finance the enforcement of the laws on interstate transportation.

    • #21
    • July 29, 2015, at 2:46 PM PDT
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  22. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    On the Constitutional issue: This one is really water under the bridge. I say this having written my law review article (many moons ago) on U.S. v. Lopez, a 1995 SCOTUS case that held the Gun-Free School Zones Act unconstitutional, because it was not a regulation of “commerce.”

    I understand, and sympathize with, the pre-Parrish Constitutional argument about the Commerce Clause, but as a practical matter, the “substantially affects commerce” test is over 75 years old, and it’s well past time to let this sleeping dog lie (it’s called “stare decisis”). There are probably hundreds of thousands of federal statutes and regulations based on this interpretation of the Commerce Clause, including the anti-discrimination laws, regulations on cars and just about every other consumer product, pharmaceutical regulation, and on and on.

    I agree with the post-Lopez decisions in which SCOTUS has rolled back this doctrine to the extent that it applies to fundamentally non-economic activity, but that’s as far as I think we should go.

    And think of the practical implications — if SCOTUS, next term, jettisoned the Parrish “substantially affects commerce” test, I think there would be an immediate and successful move for a constitutional amendment to re-impose it — and the change would probably be for the worse.

    • #22
    • July 29, 2015, at 3:00 PM PDT
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  23. Umbra Fractus, cum Insigne Lincoln
    Umbra Fractus, cum Insigne Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Nick Stuart: Christie looks like a man who enjoys his vices, he just doesn’t want you to enjoy yours.

    Irrelevant. Christie’s vices are not illegal nor was he involved in passing the law in question. I’m in favor of legalization, personally, but Christie is right here; flagrant flouting of the law should not be tolerated.

    If the people think the law is unconstitutional then they should challenge it through the proper channels.

    If the Executive thinks the law is unconstitutional then yes, he has a duty not to enforce it, but he also has a responsibility to explain himself clearly and persuasively which is not what is going on right now regarding marijuana laws. The administration has made no case for or against the constitutionality of the Controlled Substances Act; they just said, “Meh. I don’t wanna,” which is unacceptable.

    • #23
    • July 29, 2015, at 3:06 PM PDT
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  24. Tuck Inactive

    Arizona Patriot: …it’s called “stare decisis”…

    A doctrine which requires gullible Conservatives to uphold unconstitutional Progressive innovations. Where is stare decisis in the Constitution, exactly?

    “…Extreme as those views are, the most extreme part of Justice Thomas’s record is not what he decides, but how. Justice Antonin Scalia told a biographer of Justice Thomas, Ken Foskett, that Justice Thomas “doesn’t believe in stare decisis, period.”…”

    Our one Conservative Justice, alas…

    • #24
    • July 29, 2015, at 3:08 PM PDT
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  25. Franco Member
    Franco Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Concretevol:

    This ridiculous notion can be dismissed by simple common-sense logic.

    If marijuana is illegal – as illegal as heroin or meth – then chances are some people who sell weed also sell harder stuff. If someone is already breaking the law buying weed, and already taking a ‘drug’ some – even many will try these other drugs. “Studies show most heroin-addicts started with weed”

    But there’s no correlation other than some general attraction to getting high some have a predilection for. Alcohol is a drug. Most marijuana smokers started drinking alcohol first.

    It’s absurd, in our There’s a Drug For That culture, to claim that one particular drug in the hierarchy of drugs – and there are many different scientific ways you can classify drugs and substances – to assign one particular substance a “gateway” drug designation.

    Let’s try to understand what people mean by gateway. Is it is gateway to criminality? Absolutely. These people are already breaking the law. They are already on the lookout for cops.

    Is it a gateway to the idea and the experience of getting high in some fashion? No. cigarettes, alcohol, high fructose and caffeine not to mention adderal, ritalin and what ever else is being prescribed for the latest fad in diagnosing child sanity as an illness for the insane culture.

    They take these mood-altering substances before ever thinking of smoking a joint.

    I’m not judging our pathetic, insane society, just reporting

    • #25
    • July 29, 2015, at 3:23 PM PDT
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  26. Owen Findy Member

    Tuck: Justice Thomas “doesn’t believe in stare decisis, period

    <sigh> I want him to have my child….

    • #26
    • July 29, 2015, at 3:33 PM PDT
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  27. Spin Coolidge
    Spin Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Arizona Patriot: People and businesses in several states are knowingly and openly flaunting federal law.

    It really is bizarre to me that you and others take this view. I’ve said it before, if there were a federal ban on 30 round magazines, but a state legalized them, and they were being sold in gun stores in that state, none of you would be advocating for federal raids on those same gun stores. And you’d applaud a President who openly ignored these violations of federal law as a good Federalist.

    • #27
    • July 29, 2015, at 3:40 PM PDT
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  28. iWe Reagan
    iWe Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Z in MT:

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: If one thing unites the entire spectrum of the right, from anarcho-capitalists to NeoCons, it’s the belief that the rule of law matters.

    I am singling out Mike H., but he has recently posted to the contrary.

    I also do not believe in the Rule of Law when the law is capriciously enforced for ulterior motives. That is tyranny.

    • #28
    • July 29, 2015, at 3:43 PM PDT
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  29. Jamie Lockett Inactive

    Umbra Fractus: Irrelevant. Christie’s vices are not illegal nor was he involved in passing the law in question. I’m in favor of legalization, personally, but Christie is right here; flagrant flouting of the law should not be tolerated.

    So then you thoroughly reject the entire premise of Charles Murray’s new book?

    • #29
    • July 29, 2015, at 4:10 PM PDT
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  30. Misthiocracy grudgingly Member
    Misthiocracy grudgingly Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Arizona Patriot:

    Misthiocracy:

    Austin Murrey: we should fairly and firmly enforce federal law

    “We” don’t enforce federal law. The executive branch of the federal government enforces federal law. “We” are not the executive branch of the federal government.

    Hey, Mis, this strikes me as pedantry, up with which I shall not put!

    It’s clear that, in context, AM meant that the feds should enforce federal law.

    Yeah, well, uh, that’s just like, uh, your opinion, man.

    • #30
    • July 29, 2015, at 4:18 PM PDT
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