Jacob Sullum

The ACLU argues that there are no plausible grounds for charging state employees with a federal crime, since licensing and regulating dispensaries does not involve growing or distributing marijuana and does not meet the intent and knowledge requirements for convicting someone of conspiracy, aiding and abetting, acting as an accessory or money laundering. The group adds that regulators could not be prosecuted simply for failing to rat out licensees to the feds, since "respecting confidentiality does not constitute an affirmative act," which is required to convict someone of concealing a felony.

Although Vermont, Delaware and New Jersey have proceeded with plans for state-licensed dispensaries despite the prosecution threats, Brewer is not the only governor who has capitulated to federal pressure. Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire, a Democrat who had supported a bill that would have authorized dispensaries, decided to veto it after receiving a threatening letter from U.S. attorneys. Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who ran as an independent, likewise has halted plans for dispensaries.

But Brewer's timidity is especially striking in light of her devotion to state autonomy in areas such as health care, where she has challenged federally mandated insurance, and immigration, where she has sought to pick up the slack from an administration she perceives as insufficiently committed to enforcing the law. "The United States has a federal government, not a national government," she declared in a speech last March, promising to "pursue a policy of renewed federalism" and complaining that "never during our nearly 100 years of statehood has federal interference ... been more blatant."

Two months later, Brewer surrendered to federal interference by suspending her state's medical marijuana program. Legal scholars often bemoan "the drug exception to the Fourth Amendment." Apparently there is also a drug exception to the 10th Amendment.


Jacob Sullum

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a contributing columnist on Townhall.com.
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