Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, explains Obama's drug-policy dilemma:
Tim Dickinson lays out what Obama could do if he wanted to end the war on marijuana:
If Obama were committed to drug reform – or simply to states' rights – he could immediately end DEA raids on those who grow and sell pot according to state law, and immediately order the Justice Department to make enforcement of federal marijuana laws the lowest priority of U.S. attorneys in states that choose to tax and regulate pot. He could also champion a bipartisan bill introduced by Rep. Diana DeGette, a Democrat from Colorado, that would give state marijuana regulation precedence over federal law – an approach that even anti-marijuana hard-liners have endorsed. As George W. Bush's former U.S. attorney for Colorado wrote in a post-election op-ed in the Denver Post: "Letting states 'opt out' of the Controlled Substances Act's prohibition against marijuana ought to be seriously considered."
Sullum challenges Dickinson on another point – that the feds could legally prevent Colorado and Washington from implementing their laws:
It is notable that in the 16 years since states began legalizing marijuana for medical use, the Justice Department has never tried to overturn those laws in court with a pre-emption argument, even though it has interfered with the distribution of cannabis to patients (which began in yet another state yesterday) in many other ways. Perhaps that is because, contrary to what Dickinson says, a pre-emption argument would be anything but an "open-and-shut case." Last month Alex Kreit, a professor at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law who has studied the issue, told the Drug War Chronicle "opponents of these laws would love nothing more than to be able to preempt them, but there is not a viable legal theory to do that." Yesterday The New York Times noted that Gregory Katsas, who headed the Justice Department's civil division in George W. Bush's administration, likewise "was skeptical that a pre-emption lawsuit would succeed."