The legalization of marijuana has confronted America with perhaps the most prominent clash between state’s rights and federal power since the days of Jim Crow.
Sixty years ago, populist demagogues swearing “segregation now and forever” invoked the mantra of ‘states rights’ to oppose federal civil rights legislation. Today, men with kindred political reflexes occupy the executive branch and wield the power of the U.S government. No longer do they invoke the specter of integrated schools, mixed marriages, Black Power and “black crime”. No, today, George Wallace’s heirs draw upon that other 60’s bete noire, the pot-smoking longhair, to awaken fears of violent disorder and to fuel a lust for punishment and retribution. When he isn’t consorting with Putin’s henchman, Attorney General, and former Alabama Senator, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, is conjuring images of cannabis supermarkets and is promising, in turn, to renew the drug war.
Of course, the irony hasn’t escaped many. This political scion of Alabama’s “states’ rights” heritage is now threatening to marshal federal power to eradicate an imaginary marijuana scourge in the face of the expressed will of twenty-nine states to legalize its use either for medical or recreational purposes. Will the federal government prevail? Can Jefferson Beauregard Session use the U.S. Controlled Substances Act to vitiate state law, to raid our “laboratories of democracy,”and to extinguish the noble experiment California, Colorado, Washington, et. al, have launched in cannabis legalization.