Almost half of states violating federal drug law

Dan Lucas_July 2012_BW

by Dan Lucas

A recent report on the Status of Oregon Marijuana Programs from the State of Oregon’s Legislative Fiscal Office contained this interesting note “There are currently 24 states plus the District of Columbia that have legalized medical marijuana.”

The report also notes “As of November 2014, Oregon became one of 4 states (as of the time of this writing), plus the District of Columbia, that have legalized recreational marijuana.”

I have put the word “legalized” in italics because those states can’t actually legalize marijuana. Marijuana is still very much illegal in the U.S.

Marijuana remains illegal at the federal level – illegal for states to regulate

Last September, the Washington Post reported “Marijuana, of course, remains illegal under federal law.”

As I’ve noted before “Even though marijuana use will be legal at the state level [in Oregon], it remains illegal at the federal level per the 1970 Controlled Substances Act. At the federal level, marijuana is still a Schedule I drug, along with drugs like heroin and LSD. Anyone growing, selling or possessing marijuana is still committing a federal crime punishable by at least up to five years in prison and a fine up to $250,000.

A year ago, I also noted “According to the Thomson Reuters’ legal website FindLaw: ‘State legislatures must create drug laws that are in compliance with the Controlled Substances Act. This means that the state drug laws may be more narrow than federal drug laws, but may not override them or be in conflict with them.’ The Huffington Post reported in 2013, ‘states’ regulation of marijuana is illegal under the Controlled Substances Act.’ Regardless, Oregon, along with a number of other states, has created drug laws that conflict with federal law with regard to marijuana.”

USA Today reported in March of last year “federal law makes no distinction between medical and recreational marijuana — it’s all illegal.”

In Colorado, where marijuana has also been legalized at the state level, the state solicitor general has acknowledged, “No one contends that Colorado law trumps the federal marijuana ban or immunizes anyone from federal prosecution.”

New president may choose to enforce federal drug laws

As I stated a year ago “The current administration in Washington, D.C., has determined that they will not make enforcing existing federal drug laws a priority in the case of marijuana. In August 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice sent out the ‘Cole memo‘ as guidance on how it would prioritize enforcement of federal marijuana drug laws.”

And just because they’re not making it a priority doesn’t mean they’re not still enforcing federal drug laws relating to marijuana in some cases.

But what if the next president decides to start fully following federal law?

What if Republican candidate Donald Trump wins and then chooses to repay NJ Gov. Chris Christie’s endorsement of him by making former federal prosecutor Christie the new U.S. Attorney General? Christie has already said that he’d return to prosecuting in states with legalized marijuana.

What if Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton wins and makes anti-marijuana activist and former congressman Patrick J. Kennedy (D-RI) the new U.S. Attorney General? Kennedy’s uncle Robert F. Kennedy was the U.S. Attorney General in the 1960s under another uncle, President John F. Kennedy.

While Clinton has said she supports reclassifying marijuana from schedule 1 to schedule 2, that would still keep it illegal at the federal level – in the same category as cocaine or methamphetamine.

In addition to resuming prosecution of individuals, could a new U.S. Attorney General also begin prosecuting state officials who are supporting “legalized” marijuana in violation of federal law? Oregon’s state Attorney General, Ellen Rosenblum, was elected with the help of hundreds of thousands of dollars of marijuana lobby money.

Since “states’ regulation of marijuana is illegal under the Controlled Substances Act,” could a new administration in Washington D.C. begin prosecuting Oregon officials at the Oregon Health Authority who regulate medical marijuana? How about other Oregon officials (OLCC?) or even Oregon legislators who have regulated marijuana?

To read more from Dan, visit

UPDATE (Jun 2016)Last year, federal prosecutors charged 2,349 people with marijuana possession in the US – it’s still a federal crime

  • kelley davis

    To late wars over you missed it.

    See what most suckers don’t know and may never figure out is that the DOJ put up the white flag this last April.

    Here is a link explaining how the dam has been blown up river and the water is heading right for that bridge all them prohibitionists are parading up and down on. Ever see Force 10 from Navarone

    “DID THE FEDS just give up on enforcement actions against state medical marijuana programs?

    Yes, they did. They threw in the towel.”

    And so much for federal laws xDLOL

    What most people do not understand is there is more going on here than Marijuana.

    This is the last years of a functioning centralized government.

    • thevillageidiot

      the picture with Sam Elliott says it all. and even the state does not have the right to prohibit any thing indigestible.

  • Bongstar420

    The Feds don’t have intrastate prohibitionist authority. At the very best, they can stretch the Commerce Clause with “laundering” charges when a pot business buys services from interstate corporations such as insurance or land.

    Here in Oregon, we have out of state interests itching to get into our market. The Feds can chase these fat cats all day and still fail to limit supply to any serious degree. Its gonna be some serious entertainment to see some multimillionaires get strung up for this business…They could choose to keep it small and fly under the radar.

    • thevillageidiot

      Because we the people have allowed it the federal government does have the authority. That does not imply the we the people cannot take it back. How long do you think, that when the Fed withholds money from the states, they will hold out on principle of states rights? Just watch how our stand up congressmen and senators change their tune based on the political wind (money) direction.

      • Bongstar420

        LOL…I said legal authority. Not actual ability. The gubmint still found black water fountains on their books for decades after the Civil War.

        There is on paper legal
        and there is in real life actually occurs which may or may not actually be legal

  • Robert Collins

    Keep beating that dead horse, Lucas. Keep beating that dead horse.

  • thevillageidiot

    Dan, Prohibition passed by congress did not work, the Controlled substance act passed by congress does not work. Prohibiting anything that people eat, drink or or otherwise ingest was not enumerated to either the federal government or the state government. The people have been doing pretty much whatever they want in spite of the “laws” passed by congresses elected by only one vote more than half the people. and that is a stretch. most of the time it is only 20% to 30% of the people. These “laws” were passed so congress could tout they did something. So what is your point of this article? Who is president won’t matter, who is US AG won’t matter. Drugs will continue to be manufactured, grown, processed and distributed by the best free market system possible. the consumer drives the engine of commerce. even the black market.

  • Arele

    All these commenters are of course going to make the same points about not enforcing federal law when it’s other areas of federal law that are being ignored or enforced, right? Or do we just enforce the laws we want to these days – that is, that liberals want to – and ignore the rest?

    PS LOVE the thevillageidiot’s comment describing pot as “indigestible.” Maybe indulging a bit too much in the Schedule 1?

    • Eric Blair

      I’m not sure why you are dissing on liberals when obvious conservatives such as Village are on the same page as they are.

      • Arele

        Well there’s not much difference between liberals and libertarians when it comes to pot, especially when it comes to seeing clearly, now is there?

        • Bongstar420

          Liberals want taxes and regulations
          Libertarians want the absence of taxes and regulations

          • guest seen

            Who-ah with all Dem hors devours!

    • Bongstar420

      Refer to my point. The Feds don’t actually have legitimate authority over intrastate drug laws.

      • Arele

        Yes they do.

    • thevillageidiot

      my fingers were not working right. but you saw the humor.

      • Foddermore

        “Next to power without honor, the most dangerous thing in the world is power without humor.” or something to fiat ponder.

  • DavidAppell

    Alcohol does far, far, far more damage than does marijuana — and not just to those who drink it.

    You can’t be taken seriously on pot unless you are first concerned — very concerned — about booze.

    • Roger Enout

      Liar, liar, rants afire. Take a down trip down off Niagara Falls ewe left wing red herring grouper, snag-dabbit!

      • Eric Blair

        Can you cite a source that says that Marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol. Please make it a reputable source.

        • Dry up you sponge bawl

          E.B. – Urine peer a half fast classmate remains reocomposted stoody hall embodiment @ Ridgemont, hy’all,

  • Mr Worldly Wiseman

    Let’s hope Trump blows the cobwebs out of the tired, failed, RINO establishment. I’d really like to see conservatives support states rights once again.