We Need to Fix the Disconnect Between State and Federal Policy on Marijuana


In a recent editorial theĀ Fargo Forum suggested a law granting reciprocity on marijuana policy among the various states. They want to call it Melissa’s Law, named after musician Melissa Etheridge who was arrested in North Dakota recently by federal authorities while trying to enter the country from Canada with marijuana in her possession.

Etheridge is a breast cancer survivor. She says the pot was of the medicinal variety legal in Canada. Both North Dakota and Minnesota also have laws on the books legalizing marijuana possession and use for medical reasons.

“There ought to be a law granting reciprocity between states or other jurisdictions that legalize medical marijuana for certified users,” the paper suggests.

There ought to be.

Yesterday on my radio show I spoke with North Dakota U.S. Attorney Chris Myers (audio below). The topic of our discussion was the fight against opioid addiction, and I asked Myers what he thought of the argument that greater access to marijuana to treat things like chronic pain might tamp down demand for opioids.

After all, the ability of the government to stop the supply of illicit goods or services for which there is strong demand is pretty small. Look no further than the 18th amendment, an utter failure later overturned by the 21st amendment, for evidence of that.

Myers was dubious about the argument. “I haven’t seen any real scientific study in that regard,” he said. But whatever his opinions about the efficacy of marijuana as a medical remedy, he’s our state’s top federal law enforcement officer. Federal law states that marijuana is, without equivocation, an illegal drug. But in North Dakota, along with many other states, marijuana is now legal for medical use.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]”We’re going to enforce federal law and the policies handed down by the [Justice] Department,” he told me.[/mks_pullquote]

What are the feds doing in the face of that reality?

“We’re going to enforce federal law and the policies handed down by the [Justice] Department,” he told me.

Does that mean federal law enforcement will go after the pot operations North Dakota officials are currently developing policies for?

“We will consult with our state partners on any case brought to us,” Myers said, adding that his office currently has a mandate to “focus on trafficking.”

Which means, I guess, that the feds are just going to ignore North Dakota’s state-sanctioned marijuana commerce despite it being explicitly illegal under federal law.

“We’ll see where things go with things in North Dakota,” Myers told me.

This is an extremely problematic state of affairs, though Myers is hardly the one to blame for it.

Our nation was founded on the concept of the rule of law as opposed to the rule of man. Rather than the law being whatever some nobility tells us it is in the moment, we elect people to create the law through an inclusive process and then enforce it equitably on all citizens.

So what do we have, then, when public officials pick and choose which laws they’re going to enforce? The former, which we want, or the latter which we literally fought a war over?

The people, through their state and local governments, are making their views known on marijuana. Maybe it’s time for the feds to butt out.

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