The Washington Post's editorial board came out in support of Washington and Colorado's decision to legalize weed on Monday night.
State and federal laws still conflict with each other on marijuana possession, as the Post points out, but the Justice Department has a history of sitting on its hands when it comes to enforcing pot laws. They usually focus on the big fish and leave the smaller ones alone, a strategy the Post likes because there's a real fear the Department is going to hit Washington and Colorado with a lawsuit blocking their legalization bills, or, potentially even worse, crack down on offenders in the (supposedly legal) states.
But it’s unrealistic and unwise to expect federal officials to pick up the slack left by state law- enforcement officers who used to enforce marijuana prohibitions against pot users and small-time growers. Unrealistic, because it would require lots more resources. Unwise, because filling prisons with users, each given a criminal stain on his or her record, has long been irrational. For the latter reason, we favor decriminalizing possession of small amounts of pot, assessing civil fines instead of locking people up.
They argue the feds should trust state law enforcement officials to monitor the stuff happening on their own turf, and the feds should keep out of it. "State officials involved in good-faith efforts to regulate marijuana production and distribution according to state laws should be explicitly excused from federal targeting," the Post says.
It's not clear if the Post is just trying to win points with some cooler papers because the Post was made fun of recently, but they're essentially making the Pink Floyd argument: "Hey! [Justice Department]! Leave us kids alone!" The Post would certainly fit in well in most freshman dormitories. So, basically, the Post doesn't see what the big deal is. It's just a little pot. They effectively just told the Justice Department to, "chill."
They close their argument by saying legalizing marijuana could be a good thing, or it could be a bad thing, but they need to find out on their own. The states need to fail on their own. Arguing with the Justice Department is just like arguing with your parents.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.