The Obama Justice Department announced Monday that it will no longer prosecute growers or users of medical marijuana in states where such activities are legal. Unlike the fiercely contentious debates over health care, the economy, and the war in Afghanistan, commentators have met this this move--a rejection of hyper-aggressive enforcement under Bush--with nearly universal praise. From the conservative magazine National Review to prolific liberal blogger Glenn Greenwald, pundits find cause to celebrate the shift, though their reasons differ. Pro-legalization writers extoll it as an advance in the movement to legalize pot, while states'-rights advocates praise it as an unusual affirmation of their cause.
- Two Steps Forward At The National Review, Jonathan Adler says the decision is a "positive step toward a more rational drug control policy and greater respect for state-level policymaking." He wants to see pot regulated like alcohol. "Ideally, the federal government would treat marijuana like alcohol, retaining a federal role in controlling illegal interstate trafficking but leaving each state entirely free to set its own marijuana policy, whether it be prohibition, decriminalization, or somewhere in between."
- Credit Where Credit's Due At Salon, Glenn Greenwald gives credit "to the Obama DOJ, for fulfilling a long-standing commitment on this issue." He celebrates a win for states' rights (and a repudiation of the Bush administration's policies as well).
Beyond the tangible benefits to patients and providers, there is the issue of states' right. Fourteen states have legalized medical marijuana, many by referendum. The Bush administration's refusal to honor or even recognize those states' decisions -- by arresting people for doing things which are perfectly legal under state law -- was one of many examples giving the lie to the conservative movement's alleged belief in federalism and limited federal power (see here, for instance, how John Ashcroft and GOP Senators tried deceitfully and undemocratically to exploit the aftermath of 9/11 to prevent Oregon from implementing its assisted suicide law).
- Federal Sanity on Marijuana Nick Gillespie of Reason says "the Obama administration is making all the right noises on federal medical marijuana policy."