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Because it's the law

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Monday, March 06, 2017 07:30 am

So, let's sit down and figure out which laws we like and which ones we don't like. When we decide on the ones we don't like, we can then call the authorities and so inform them and ask that they please stop enforcing them.That's the lesson we have been taught by the federal government, anyway.

We all know by now what contortions the authorities have gone through to avoid for decades enforcing the immigration laws they created. Then a Trump administration comes along and says it will enforce the law, and there's a national freak-out.  Everybody is behaving as if there is a new law that no one wants. We have school boards, for heaven's sake, willing to vow in public that they will not observe the law. Nice lesson for the kids to take home: We get to pick and choose which laws we will obey, and we will get away with it.

Now, we're going through the same contortions over marijuana. That drug is still classified as a Class 1 substance with the DEA, along with drugs like LSD, Ecstasy, peyote, and heroin as having "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse." But the Obama administration did a wink wink, nudge nudge and states picked up on the hint that Washington would decline to enforce those laws in states that felt differently. So a bunch of states have passed medical marijuana laws, and now the trend is for approval of even recreational use.

Hell, it's a stampede:

In the fall, three other states joined Massachusetts in passing recreational pot ballot measures: California, Maine and Nevada. Four other states — Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington — have legalized marijuana through ballot initiatives as well. 

But this year lawmakers in 17 states — Connecticut, Minnesota and Hawaii among them — have become emboldened enough to introduce more than two dozen measures to legalize recreational pot for adults and tax its sale. The experiences of Colorado and Washington state — the first two states to legalize the drug still considered illegal under federal law — drive the trend.

So now we have, co-existing, federal rules that say one thing and state rules that say another. Which is fine and dandy as long as the federal authorities continue to look the other way. But what happens if a new administration decides federal marijuana law should prevail?

A lot of people thought (and a lot of them worried) that new Attorney General Jeff Sessions would be the one to upset the status quo. He is known as being fiercely anti-drug, and he has said things like,  "Good people don't smoke marijuana." And:

"We need grown-ups in charge in Washington deciding that marijuana is not the thing that ought to be legalized," he said in April 2016 at the Caucus on International Narcotics Control. "This drug is dangerous. You cannot play with it. It’s not funny."

But apparently he has seen the light: According to Politico, Sessions  has made it known that he’s not all that interested in reasserting federal primacy for marijuana issues:

Sessions provided some private assurances to senators before he was confirmed that he was not considering a major shift in enforcement, despite his opposition to the use of marijuana.

"He told me he would have some respect for states’ right on these things. And so I’ll be very unhappy if the federal government decides to go into Colorado and Washington and all of these places. And that’s not the [what] my interpretation of my conversation with him was. That this wasn’t his intention," said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). in an interview.

And since he was confirmed, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) said administration officials have left him with the impression there is no big policy change coming.

"Nothing at this point has changed," Gardner said.

But note the wording: At this point, nothing has changed. At some point, something could change. All it would take would be for Jeff Sessions to change mind. People in Washington and Oregon are already breaking the law. What if they're called into account for it?

Don't misunderstand. I'm a big fan of states' rights (as is Sessions), and marijuana isn't the greatest evil that ever came down the pike. It's just the kind of thing that could benefit from states acting as the "laboratory of democracy."  Let the folks Oregon and Washington smoke themselves into oblivion, while folks in Indiana stay straight and sober (cause it ain't ever gonna be legal here).

But not while marijuana is classified as as a Class 1 substance by the federal government.

There was a billboard campaign several years ago in Indiana — I think it might been to promote seat belt use right after the state legislature mandated them. They said, "It's not just a good idea — it's the law." My initial reaction was that the billboards had it backward. It should be, "It's not just the law — it's a good idea." A properly moral person should worry more about whether he's doing the right thing than whether he's doing the legal thing. That is, I wouldn't worry too much about breaking a law, if I thought it was a stupid law. But I will always worry about whether I'm doing the right thing.

But of course the billboards were right. We all want to do the right thing, but we don't always know what it is, or at least we often disagree about what it is. But it is easy to know what the law is, and it is easy to make people obey it by enforcing it consistently. As imperfect as it might be, the law is the best way we have of trying to discover the right thing and put it down in black in white. The law is precious and should be honored as such because it is the only way we have of making "doing the right thing" a top goal of society. We certainly shouldn't have public officials working to push the law into disrepute.

The solution seems pretty simple to me. If you can't or won't enforce the law, if, in fact, you are encouraging people not to follow the law, then get rid of the law. It would be that difficult for Congress to remove marijuana from Schedule 1 to a lower status that would allow for some legal use under federal law. Change the law to reflect the policy. Don't ignore the law because it doesn't suit your policy.

Just do the right thing, OK?

ELSEWHERE IN THE NEWS

Opponents say that it "is madness" to think about ending Florida's gun-free zones. Never mind that most shootings happen in gun-free zones.

Who could have seen this coming? Philly's soda tax is crushing the city's beverage business.

A little sanity out of Washington: The EPA is set to announce reversal on fuel economy standards, "The tailpipe pollution regulations were among Mr. Obama’s major initiatives to reduce global warming and were put forth jointly by the E.P.A. and the Transportation Department. They would have forced automakers to build passenger cars that achieve an average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, compared with about 36 miles per gallon today."

An asteroid "whizzed by" Earth so close it could be seen by telescopes on the ground. The really scary part: "It was only detected six hours before it was at its closest point to Earth."

Half of college students now expect taxpayers to bail them out of their student loan debt. Guess we're not exactly instilling a sense of responsibility.

This is just sad: Hillary Clinton, when asked who, besides family members, she'd take with her if stranded on a desert island. She said, "No one."

Americans have lost faith in institutions, and it has nothing to do with Donald Trump or "fake news."

Everything about modern life works against community and trust. Globalization and urbanization put people in touch with the different and the novel. Our economy rewards initiative over conformity, so that the weight of convention and tradition doesn't squelch the latest gizmo from coming to the attention of the next Bill Gates. Whereas parents in the 1920s said it was most important for their children to be obedient, that quality has declined in importance, replaced by a desire for independence and autonomy. Widespread education gives people the tools to make up their own minds. And technology offers everyone the chance to be one's own reporter, broadcaster and commentator.

Good article. Read the whole thing.

Is there anything he can't do? Barbra Streisand says Donald Trump is making her gain weight. It couldn't possibly be the pancakes.

Want to solve illegal immigration? No wall, no raids, just enforce the employment law. "Fine employers who violate those laws. Fine them, as the president might say, 'big time.' Our illegal immigration problem would disappear overnight. And then we can again be the nation takes the tired and poor who are yearning to breathe free, legally."

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