By Donald Scarinci | November 15th, 2012 - 10:20am
| More

During NBC’s election night coverage, Brian Williams remarked, “There's a whole lot of weed on the ballot tonight.” Recreational use of marijuana was approved by ballot initiatives in Colorado and Washington. Massachusetts also joined a number of states, including New Jersey, in legalizing the drug for medical use.

In Colorado, Amendment 64, which legalizes recreational use of marijuana, garnered more support than the President, beating him out by 53,281 votes. Nonetheless, Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat who opposed the initiative, tried to tempter voter expectations of what will happen next.

“The voters have spoken and we have to respect their will," Hickenlooper said in a statement. "This will be a complicated process, but we intend to follow through. That said, federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug so don’t break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly.”

While voters largely appear to support the legalization of marijuana, the federal government is slow to get on board. Marijuana is still illegal under federal law, which trumps any state law to the contrary. As confirmed by the Supreme Court in 2005, the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution authorizes the federal government to enforce the Controlled Substances Act despite state laws legalizing various types of marijuana use.

The question now is how far the Department of Justice will go to enforce the law, particularly if states like Colorado seek to regulate and tax the sale of marijuana. Justice Department spokeswoman Nanda Chitre said in a statement: "The department's enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged. In enacting the Controlled Substances Act, Congress determined that marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance. We are reviewing the ballot initiatives and have no additional comment at this time."

Despite the statement, the government’s legal stance on marijuana has certainly softened since in first became illegal over forty years ago. The fact that the DOJ has not already come out directly against the ballot initiatives suggests that …”The times they are changing…”

For more on the legal history of marijuana, check Thursday’s article on www.ConstitutionalLawReporter.com and check back here next week.

###

Donald Scarinci is a managing partner at Lyndhurst, N.J.-based law firm Scarinci Hollenbeck.  He is also the editor of the Constitutional Law Reporter and Government & Law blogs.

 

Wake-Up Call

Morning Digest: August 21st

'We believe in redemption': Roque heads into 2015 with full backing of the HCDO WEST NEW YORK – When local pain specialist Dr. Felix Roque delivered U.S. Rep. Albio Sires (D-8) from discomfort and restored him to the golf course, the congressman in return indulged the political fancies of...

Op-Ed

Five ideas for strengthening the state's political parties

By Jeff Brindle An August 15, 2014 ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Stanley Chesler reaffirmed the place of political parties in the State’s electoral system. By rejecting arguments that unaffiliated voters should have a right to vote in... Read More >

Contributors

(8-20-14) Can You Take the ‘Partisan’ out of ‘Partisan Politics’? - Redistricting will not take place for another seven years. Yet the debate has already... more »
    My Richard Nixon Ambivalence   Today is the fortieth anniversary of President Richard Nixon’s resignation address to the nation on August 8, 1974. At that time, I was ambivalent about... more »
 The following letter was sent today to Republican state legislators, county chairs, state committee members, and New Hampshire... more »
(Washington DC)-- Two recent votes on Capitol Hill suggest an overdue and radical departure from our nation's Draconian and costly War on Drugs.  It's a long-overdue discussion (and not just... more »

Quote of the Day

quote of the day

"I think he was an army general, what was he?" - state Sen. Nick Sacco (D-32)

- PolitickerNJ

Poll

Which of these candidates does Gov. Chris Christie absolutely need to win?:

Blogroll

Visit the PolitickerNJ.com/resources page for links to the best collection of information on New Jersey state government.

 

  • Polls
  • The best blogs
  • Columnists
  • State election results
  • Assembly election results
  • Local party websites
  • And more.

PolitickerNJ.com/resources