Attorney General Eric Holder announced this week that the federal government will cease raids on farms and gardens that states have approved as legal medical marijuana dispensaries. Such a move may get the Obama administration some kudos from libertarians and small-government conservatives.
It seems to defy explanation.
Each day seems to bring new bad news. On Thursday, it was that General Motors is in real danger of bankruptcy -- regardless of what the government does. But, despite this, President Obama remains popular. No, strike that: He remains ridiculously popular. "Popular" in these circumstances would be, 51 or 52 percent. But even Fox News' polling has him at 63 percent!! How is this possible? Is everyone stoned?
Well, actually, that might be close to the answer.
Not literally. At least not yet. But, the Obama Justice Department did announce this week that it would be much more respectful of states' rights when it comes to, yes, medical marijuana. Unlike the Bushes, this administration won't be siccing the FBI and DEA on state-approved medical marijuana locations. This is another reminder that while elections are often fought over big issues like taxes, spending, war and peace, much smaller polices can be greatly affected by their outcome.
Oddly, after the spending blowout, this move may actually garner Obama some cred with libertarians and other limited-government conservatives.
Remember when the Supreme Court ruled against California's right to permit doctors from prescribing medical marijuana -- and in favor of the federal government's power to regulate controlled substances (under the commerce clause in the Constitution)? It was a 6-3 decision: Then-Chief Justice Rehnquist, Clarence Thomas and Sandra Day O'Connor who all sided with California. The liberal bloc (plus Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy) on the not-quite-so "High" Court sided with the federal government.
Justice Stevens, writing for the majority, did say that Congress could rewrite the laws giving states more explicit power to allow medical marijuana if it so chooses. But, ultimately, the executive has great leeway in what it chooses to prosecute.
It looks like the Obama administration thus plans to show much greater leniency in this regard than its predecessor. At least that's a charitable view of the smoke signals being sent.
Robert A. George is a New York writer. He blogs at Ragged Thots.