The federal government’s misguided war on California

Gary Johnson Libertarian Presidential Candidate
Font Size:

At least 28,000 people have been killed in drug cartel violence along the Mexican border. The attorney general of the United States is trying to explain why our government knowingly let hundreds of weapons be supplied to those drug cartel thugs. All the while, unemployment is at 9.1%, and we are all scratching our heads trying to figure out why the Department of Energy gave a soon-to-be-bankrupt company $500 million when we are bankrupt ourselves.

So what is our government doing today? DOJ is launching an offensive against California. Or more specifically, it is attacking medical marijuana dispensaries operating legally under a law approved several years ago by California voters. That’s right, our Department of Justice is spending our dollars and resources threatening dozens of small businesses in California with criminal charges, closure, and confiscation of private property for the heinous crime of trying to provide the people of California with a product and service they have officially said they want and determined to be in the public interest.

Why is our government doing this? From a common sense or even a states’ rights perspective, there is no logical reason. From a legal standpoint, the government is assaulting medicinal marijuana businesses because it says California law conflicts with federal drug laws. Yes, those federal drug laws that have been so successful in addressing drug abuse in this country — not to mention the tragic drug violence that is actually killing people by the thousands.

DOJ’s offensive against California’s medical marijuana dispensaries is incredibly troubling on many levels. First, whatever happened to the constitutional notion of states’ rights? Whether or not you think legally dispensing marijuana for medical purposes is a good idea, the proposition that a state should be able to make that decision for itself — through the democratic process — is a fundamental part of our system. Instead of imposing some supposedly superior federal wisdom, the government in Washington, D.C., should be erring on the side of letting California do what it clearly wants to do. If there is conflict with federal law, then fix the federal law. Don’t resolve the conflict by declaring war on California.

This is not some silly California thing. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have some form of legal medicinal marijuana law on the books. Those laws were approved by legislatures and voters after thoughtful and thorough debates. But hey, Washington knows better and needs to mount an offensive to protect all those people from themselves.

And beyond the legal arguments and the policy debate, what is the practical, on-the-ground effect of DOJ shutting down dispensaries? Is it going to make life better for anyone? NO. It is only going to turn a lot of people who are trying to abide by the law into criminals. Instead of going to a dispensary under medical supervision, thousands of Californians will be going to street corners to buy pot from the cartels. Now that is a great outcome. Thank you, DOJ.

Gary Johnson is a Republican candidate for president. Johnson served two terms as governor of New Mexico from 1994 to 2002.