Legal Marijuana in Trouble? UN Says Violation of International Treaties; Ex DEA Heads Call for Nullification

willie nelson pot smoker

Two story-lines emerged today that could spell trouble for marijuana legalization advocates and supporters.

Eight former Drug Enforcement Agency chiefs publicly urged the Obama administration and the Justice Department to take immediate steps to nullify actions taken by Colorado and Washington to legalize “recreational use” of marijuana within their borders.

That announcement came on the same day a UN-based drug agency known as “The International Narcotics Control Board” released its annual drug report and called on Washington to “ensure full compliance with the international drug control treaties on its entire territory.”

Smoke’m while you got’em, I suppose.

For what it’s worth, I fall somewhere between the token conservative republican position regarding the “War on Drugs” and that taken by our libertarian brethren.  While I do believe we have far bigger fish to fry than the average recreational user, I do not support legalization.  Do millions of dollars go wasted each year chasing and incarcerating the same class of criminals?  Absolutely.  Minor tweaks are surely in order and a new direction and mission would certainly be desirable; but I stop short of throwing up my hands and saying “to each their own.”  The societal impact would be far too great.

And as a side note, the argument that we should legalize it so we can generate a new tax stream is totally lost on me.  If I don’t support the government adding new taxes, why would I support making something I object to “legal”; just so they can tax it?

That said, I do believe the Obama administration and its Justice Department’s silence on this issue is an absolute dereliction of duty.  One can only conclude that they are either A) hoping the court system will sort it out; or B) fully behind legalization initiatives – a position that would contradict Barack Obama’s public statements on the matter.  It wouldn’t be the first time he’s reversed course… and it could provide a new source of “revenue.”

At this point, I no longer know what to believe.  The Justice Department picks and chooses when to do its job, so it’s extremely difficult to determine if they’re intentionally ignoring the issue or expending all their resources elsewhere.

The emergence of former DEA officials could potentially force their hand…

Ex DEA Heads Call for Nullification

SFGATE:  Eight former Drug Enforcement Administration chiefs said Tuesday that the federal government needs to act now or it might lose the chance to nullify Colorado and Washington’s laws legalizing recreational marijuana use.

The statement came on the same day a United Nations-based drug agency urged the U. S. government to challenge those laws, saying they violate international drug treaties.

The onetime DEA heads issued joint statements saying the Obama administration has reacted too slowly and should immediately sue to force the states to rescind the legislation.

One of the former DEA administrators, Peter Bensinger, told The Associated Press the day before that the more time that goes by, the harder it’ll be to stop the two states. Marijuana is illegal under federal law.

Bensinger, who lives in the Chicago area, said the government must immediately sue the states or risk creating “a domino effect” in which other states follow suit.

“My fear is that the Justice Department will do what they are doing now: do nothing and say nothing,” said Bensinger. “If they don’t act now, these laws will be fully implemented in a matter of months.”

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UN Says Violation of International Treaties

SEATTLE TIMES:  A United Nations-based drug agency urged the United States government on Tuesday to challenge the legalization of marijuana for recreational use in Colorado and Washington, saying the state laws violate international drug treaties.

The International Narcotics Control Board made its appeal in an annual drug report. It called on Washington, D.C., to act to “ensure full compliance with the international drug control treaties on its entire territory.”

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said last week that he was in the last stages of reviewing the Colorado and Washington state laws. Holder said he was examining policy options and international implications of the issue. Marijuana is illegal under federal law.

The federal government could sue the states over legalization or decide not to mount a court challenge. Washington and Colorado became the first states to pass laws legalizing the recreational use of marijuana in last fall’s elections.

“The entire international system is based on countries respecting the rules, and there’s a broad fabric of international treaties that are part and parcel to that,” said David Johnson, the U.S. delegate to the Vienna-based board.

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