Colorado Republicans Continue Their Thrashing of Jeff Sessions
Last month, I noted how Colorado's Congressional delegation was incensed at Jeff Sessions' posturing on the drug war and his efforts to override Colorado's constitutional measures against marijuana prohibition in the state.
Both Republicans and Democrats from Colorado condemned Sessions, and this should surprise no one. Marijuana legalization would never have passed in the first place without significant amounts — even majority support — from a number of Republican counties.
Even rural Colorado is far from the sort of Bible Belt politics that impels Jeff Sessions to blithely call for federal meddling in the daily lives of private citizens. More inclined toward libertarian leave-me-alone politics, Colorado Republicans are (slightly) less likely to go running to the federal government to manage their personal habits than in some other parts of the country.
On the matter of marijuana, rejecting federal marijuana prohibitions has now become widespread in Colorado in both parties where a good economy and relatively low crime rates are not exactly driving voters to call for a repeal of the the legalization measures a majority of them voted for in 2012.
So, it's not shocking to see yet another Colorado legislator join the anti-Sessions pile-on. The latest addition is this op-ed by Colorado Springs Republican Owen Hill who writes:
I have taken oaths to uphold the constitution as both a commissioned military officer and a state senator. Our state constitution clearly provides that marijuana, both recreational and medical, is legal by a popular vote of the citizens of Colorado. The US constitution also clearly states in the 10th amendment that any powers not expressly granted to the federal government are reserved to the states.
While some will wrongly argue that the supremacy clause or the commerce clause give the federal government the authority to meddle in our local issues, I side with conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas: That if Congress can regulate this under the Commerce Clause, then it can regulate virtually anything — and the federal government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers.
He goes on to say: “Whether Congress aims at the possession of drugs, guns, or any number of other items, it may continue to appropria[te] state police powers under the guise of regulating commerce.”
There are a couple of things to note here. Hill is from Colorado Springs which is the most right-wing part of Colorado, and is home to mega churches and military bases. It's about as Republican as you can get. Given the tone of his op-ed, however, it's clear Hill doesn't exactly fear blowback from his strident opposition to Sessions.
Secondly, Hill's defense of state autonomy using the Tenth Amendment is especially laudable and is the sort of thing we should routinely hear from state legislators.
Hill is right, of course, that there is nothing at all in the US Constitution autorizing federal control of substances like marijuana. It's simply not in there, and any claim of federal "supremacy" in this matter conveniently ignores the Bill if Rights.
For pragmatic reasons, Hill supports federal legislation making it clear that the federal government will leave states alone when they legalize marijuana. It is also clear from his argument, however, that such federal legislation isn't actually necessary. Federal prohibitions on drugs that void valid state laws are simply unconstitutional, whether there's any federal statute recognizing this fact, or not.