The Federal Government Insists Pot Laws Are To Protect You…From Stoned Rabbits

WARNING: if you read this blog post, you may experience any or all of the following symptoms: lightheadedness, dizziness, uncontrollable rage, uncontrollable laughter, and/or pain from the sudden impact of an external object, such as a hand or table, hitting your forehead.

You have been warned!

For Freedom Friday, we thought we would have just a bit of fun at the federal government’s expense. As of today, 36 states allow for some form of legal marijuana use. There’s considerable diversity within “some form.” Compare Colorado and Washington, for example, where marijuana use is largely legal to states such as our own Virginia where it is legal to use, with medical necessity, with restrictions on usage, with no psychoactive elements permitted. And anything in between.

US Map - Some Form Legal Marijuana

US States with Some Legal Usage of Marijuana

(No, this map is not admissible as a defense exhibit. If you get busted with pot in one of the green colored states, you’re on your own.)

But you’ll notice Utah is colored in blue, and that is where today’s bizarre tale begins.

It seems the federal government is not liking the state of things when it comes to states forging their own marijuana laws and essentially thumbing their noses at federal restrictions.

Utah currently has no form of lawful marijuana usage – medical or otherwise. So as the legislature there was considering a law to permit medical marijuana use, the Drug Enforcement Administration decided it needed to pull out all stops and really get ahead of this thing before it “took root,” if you know what we mean.

The last thing the federal government wants is for adults to be able to make their own decisions outside of what the government desires. Perhaps the next to last thing the federal government wants is for states to make their own decisions regarding the criminality of marijuana usage.

With that in mind, the DEA dispatched Special Agent Matt Fairbanks to give testimony at the Utah Senate committee hearing where the bill was being considered. Fairbanks argued prohibition prevented cultivation of marijuana. And cultivation would attract wildlife, such as rabbits who “cultivated a taste for the marijuana” reports The Washington Post who covered the story. (If you go to the story and want to listen to the audio to see that we are indeed not making this up, the Fairbanks testimony begins at about 58:00 and the good stuff begins at about time stamp 1:02:00.)

We wondered if the agent’s story was true, so we used a FOIA request in order to obtain the actual video from the agent’s field work that corroborates the testimony given to the Utah Senate committee:

Okay, we were pulling your leg about the video, but one thing we’re not making up is the federal government’s determination to impose its will over states and individuals when it comes to drug enforcement. We suppose if the best argument the feds can muster for continuing this practice has come down to stoned rabbits, then maybe the feds are running out of reasons to keep up with their “War on Drugs.”

At Freedom Forge Press, we favor limited government. That means allowing individuals to make decisions on their own without being coerced by heavy-handed laws. Is marijuana addictive? Is it “bad”? Does it bring relief from chronic pain and medical conditions? We can’t answer that. And based on the quality of the DEA’s testimony, it seems like the federal government doesn’t know the answers to those questions either.

So in the face of that uncertainty, as long as people are not harming others with some medical or recreational marijuana use, and as long as people are self-funding their own habits, then we say leave well enough alone.

Federal Government Is “Blowing Smoke” in Montana Marijuana Case

We submit to you, Dear Readers, the case of Chris Williams as a cautionary tale of an out-of-control federal government that refuses to recognize the sovereignty of the several states as enshrined in the US Constitution. The federal government does not exist to destroy individual freedom or state sovereignty.

In 2004, Montana voters passed the Montana Medical Marijuana Act by popular referendum. It wasn’t close–the law passed with a 62 percent majority of votes cast.  The law legalized the growing, distribution, and sale of marijuana to customers who had a certified medical need. State residents could pay an application fee and submit a request to be a registered cardholder of the state’s Medical Marijuana Program. All applicants were required to obtain a physician’s certification that they are suffering from a debilitating medical condition. By 2011, Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services confirmed approximately 30,000 state residents were enrolled in the program.

In 2009, the Obama administration via the Department of Justice announced that prosecution of marijuana cases in states with medical marijuana laws would be a low priority. Following these statements in 2009, Williams and 3 business partners opened Montana Cannabis.

Williams and his partners established what they felt was a responsible model for medical marijuana providers. As reported in Montana’s Independent Record, ” [Williams] said they set up a legitimate business model in 2009 that would be the ‘gold standard’ for other medical marijuana providers to follow. [Montana Cannabis] had an open door policy, hosting tours for legislators, law enforcement officers and even the chief narcotic officer for the state. They hired accountants, paid taxes and tracked all of their plants ‘from the time they had roots to their harvest’ and as well as when they were being packed and distributed.”

Compounding the situation in the eyes of federal prosecutors was the fact that Williams carried a pistol for protection, in accordance with his Second Amendment rights. But to federal prosecutors, this means Williams was in possession of firearms while committing a drug trafficking felony.

Williams faces nearly 50 years in prison for violating federal drug laws, which consider marijuana to be a Schedule I Controlled Substance. At his trial, the Independent Record article goes on to state that Williams and his attorney were not permitted to discuss the Montana law because the judge ruled “Montana laws…weren’t pertinent to the case and he didn’t allow any mention of them before jurors or as a defense.” Jurors in the case were prevented from even hearing the defense that Williams believed his actions were consistent with state law.

We disagree. On many fronts.

1. The US Constitution grants legislative powers “herein granted” to Congress. If the Constitution does not specifically and explicitly grant Congress authority, then the federal government has none. We do not recognize regulation of marijuana grown, sold, and distributed within a state’s borders to be a federal issue warranting an unlawful excursion of federal power into state sovereignty.

2. The oft-abused “Interstate Commerce Clause” which Congress has relied upon for a host of federal abuses of authority ranging from passing laws about highway speeds to Obamacare does not apply. Montana voters approved their medical marijuana law which impacts residents of Montana. State residents may cultivate, distribute, sell, or grown their own plants for their own purposes within the state’s borders.

3. The Tenth Amendment says simply, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” It doesn’t take a law degree to understand this simple statement–though federal prosecutors and a federal judge in Montana seem to be giving it their best effort either to not understand the simplicity of the statement–or to outright ignore it.

We conclude the federal government does not have lawful authority under the Constitution to prosecute citizens who are lawfully following their state’s laws regarding marijuana usage. The federal government cannot effectively micromanage issues that are best left to the states. The United States is too complex and too large for such a federal government to be able to successfully run so many aspects of our lives without being destructive to the freedom and liberty that it exists to protect. With a broken immigration system, ballooning federal debt and deficits, a stalled economy, rising unemployment, we see the federal government clearly has other challenges that it should be focusing on rather than worrying about infringing on a citizens rights and freedom to conduct lawful activity within their own state borders.

It is our sincere hope that the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals will overturn this trial court’s verdict and speedily return Mr. Williams to the freedom that he deserves. His courage to stand up for his rights should be commended and serve as an example to all!

Editor’s Note: As of posting time 11/15/12 18 states and the District of Columbia have legalized various levels of medical marijuana programs. As of 11/6/12, two states (Colorado and Washington) have legalized “adult use” of marijuana by popular referendum.

Photo Credit: JonRichfield