It is a truth universally acknowledged that U.S. Representative Lynn Westmoreland is generally incoherent, so I suppose we should applaud his overcoming of such a handicap to become a member of the U.S. Congress. Or is this one of those “necessary but not sufficient” situations?
This week I received an email from OpenCongress.org touting their new email system which allows you to hit both your Senators and your Representative with one click. I hadn’t visited the website in a long time—in fact, I had forgotten I had ever joined—so I went over to check it out.
And there was H.R. 499, filed by Jared Polis (D-CO because of course), which removes cannabis from the federal drug schedule. In other words, it would legalize pot in the United States.
Leaving aside for the moment whether the U.S. can do this in light of its signatory status of the U.N. 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (spoiler alert: Yes, it can. See Bolivia (also) and Uruguay), I think this is an important step for Congress to take, and I told my elected officials so. I expected boilerplate responses, and that’s what I got from Isakson. (Chambliss must have his mailbox set on Ignore.)
Westmoreland’s response, though certainly boilerplate, was at least responsive. I quote it here in full (except for the introductory and concluding blahblah):
On February 5, 2013 Representative Jared Polis (D-CO) introduced H.R. 499 which would remove marijuana from all schedules of the Controlled Substance Act. The bill also eliminates marijuana from the classification of a dangerous drug under the federal criminal code and does not allow marijuana to continue to be a ‘targeted drug’ with respect to anti-drug marketing campaigns. H.R. 499 directs the Treasury Department to issue and revoke permits for marijuana commerce purposes, as well as direct the Food and Drug Administration to treat and subject marijuana to the same authorities and provisions as alcohol.
The Supreme Court decision in Gonzales v. Raich regarding medical marijuana made it clear that the U.S. Congress has the authority to regulate the use of marijuana within the states. Any change to the drug laws to allow medical marijuana would require a change in law passed by Congress and signed by the President.
While I am a strong believer in personal freedom, I do not support the recreational or medical use of illegal drugs, regardless of whether the drug is marijuana, cocaine, or any other illegal substance. Congress has made decisions to protect our nation from certain illegal drugs, and allowing each state to make its own decision would adversely affect the protections that exist against those substances.
In any situation involving marijuana and other illegal substances, the Supreme Court has made clear that Congress has the authority to regulate the use of these substances at the state level, which supersedes state laws that may allow for their distribution. I am unable to support a piece of legislation that would attempt to overrule the Supreme Court’s decision and allow the protections around these illegal substances to be broken down.
I know, right?
tl;dr: “I can’t vote to make marijuana legal because the Supreme Court says it’s up to me to decide whether it’s legal or not, and it’s illegal so I can’t vote to make it legal.”
Then there’s the argle-bargle about states making a mess of things if we don’t keep a tight rein on them. Yes, this is a states-rights politician telling me that we can’t let states make these decisions for themselves, like they do for every other commodity in interstate commerce.1
(Also, too, Westmoreland may not be aware2 that there is already a patchwork approach to cannabis laws. See here for all the 50 ways you might be punished for possession.)
You will have noticed, too, the sleight of hand with ALL THE DRUGS when H.R. 499 legalizes cannabis alone.
I don’t know about you, but I am forced to conclude that something this obtuse cannot be an honest response.
If I were of a cynical turn of mind—stop that snickering—I might imagine that this article might suggest a reason why our representatives hesitate to derail the War on Drugs juggernaut.3
However, it would seem to me that there is a very simple solution to the budgeting woes of law enforcement agencies: convert the drug money to block grants for plain old law enforcement. You might even consider embedding/combining social workers with law enforcement in order to treat drug issues as a public health problem instead of a criminal issue. (I know—that’s crazy talk!)
At any rate, I find it very puzzling that a politician would buck a trend like cannabis legalization. Nationally, of course, a clear majority of U.S. citizens favor legalization, but even here in Georgia, 54% want pot legalized like Colorado. It is only a matter of time before people like Westmoreland find themselves on the losing end of that election issue.
Oh well. As I slide deeper into retirement, I figure I might as well pick up the Cudgel of Curmudgeondom and start belaboring my elected officials, none of whom are even close to representing my beliefs at the national level anyway. For the time being, it keeps me off the streets.
1 For example, buy a lemon tree in Texas. Now try driving home to a) Georgia; and b) California. Write a paragraph comparing your results.
2 When I say “may not be aware,” I mean “chooses to ignore.”
3 Yes, I am fully aware that the Juggernaut was not on rails.