Marijuana Legalization: Washington Is A Sideshow in Larger Battle Over States Rights

I just got back from Washington State, my home state, and the fact that marijuana is now semi-legal there, depending on whose rulebook you are playing by, is pretty much a non issue for many residents. The real conflict is becoming a national one over states’ rights.

The stage is set. As of Thursday, weed is legal in Washington State, according to state law. But Friday morning, the Obama administration issued guidance to the states that federal prohibitions against weed remain in effect and it will take action. Cue the music and tumbleweeds.

In the House of Representatives, some strange bedfellows are emerging to take up the cause. House Bill 6606 has been introduced to ensure that the federal controlled substances law would not trump state laws. Of the bill’s 10 co-sponsors, two are Republican, including Representatives Ron Paul of Texas and Mike Coffman of Colorado. Coffman strongly opposes marijuana legalization but says he has “an obligation to respect the will of the voters.”

The House bill is titled the “Respect States’ and Citizens’ Rights Act."

“I just think it’s important to have this conversation about what’s the appropriate role of the federal government and the state government,” says Representative Diana DeGette, who introduced H.R. 6606.

That’s what makes this debate over weed in Washington State strange to experience. Within the state, it is mostly an “eh.” Across the country, it is somewhat of a defining moment.

A moment of choice, between liberty or morality, for lack of a better word.