The Drug Czar’s Lack of Vigor (and Rigor)

By Jacob Sullum

“People don’t want to see someone jump in from Washington and tell them how to vote,” drug czar Gil Kerlikowske said today while jumping in from Washington and telling Californians how to vote on Proposition 19. Kerlikowske, who visited a drug treatment center in Pasadena, told A.P. the Justice Department might take the advice of nine former DEA administrators and sue to overturn the pot legalization initiative if voters are foolish enough to ignore him. “The letter from the former DEA administrators, a number of whom are not only practicing attorneys but former state attorney generals, made it very clear that they felt that pre-emption was certainly applicable in this case,” Kerlikowske said.

Not surprisingly, Kerlikowske did not cite any constitutional provision or case law that says California must ban what Congress bans or that states are obligated to punish whatever the federal government punishes. A.P. itself misleadingly frames the issue, saying Prop. 19 “would conflict with federal laws classifying marijuana as an illegal drug.” There is not a conflict simply because a state chooses not to replicate the federal criminal code.