By Rich Zeoli
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
Incredibly simple, profoundly important, and routinely ignored, the 10th Amendment to the United States Constitution reminds us that the states created the federal government and not the other way around.
If you check the Constitution, you will not find authorization for the federal government to prohibit marijuana. Consider that when the United States banned alcohol, it did so by amending the Constitution through the 18th Amendment. Consequently, when the United States realized it was thirsty, it legalized alcohol by amending the Constitution via passage of the 21st Amendment.
But in the case of marijuana, the federal government just decided it had the authority to prohibit the little plant even though there is no mention of the word in the Constitution. We owe thanks to the Godfather of all things big federal government, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. On August 2, 1937, President Roosevelt signed federal legislation that banned cannabis use, production and sales, including for industrial hemp. Of course, Roosevelt never let a little thing like the Constitution get in his way (see internment of Japanese Americans, court packing, National Recovery Administration, Agricultural Adjustment Agency, etc.).
Now, years later, states are legalizing medical marijuana. But marijuana in all forms remains illegal on the federal level. So theoretically, the states are breaking federal law by legalizing a drug the federal government had no Constitutional power to ban in the first place. This is the kind of legal conundrum that lawyers love because it creates precedent and billable hours. To remedy, a bipartisan bill called “The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act” will prohibit federal prohibition of medical marijuana in states that have legalized medical marijuana.
No matter where you stand on marijuana, this is a classic states’ rights issue that all Conservatives should support. If we are going to return power to the states and the people as the Founders intended, then we need to get the federal government out of areas to which it has no Constitutional authority. And while that may make some of my conservative friends uncomfortable because they are against legalizing pot, it should make those same conservatives happy to return power back to the states in accordance with the 10th Amendment.
And last time I checked, there is nothing in the Constitution about marijuana, but there is explicitly clear language about the power of the states, and the people, respectively.