I believe that states have the constitutional right to legalize drugs. For, the Constitution is silent on the federal government’s ability to regulate or ban substances that adults choose to digest at their own peril—or medical relief.
The Constitution is so silent on this matter of individual liberty (choosing to digest or use drugs) that in order to ban the sale of alcohol during the Prohibition era, we passed the 18th Amendment. When we wised up and realized that banning alcohol doesn’t work, we repealed the 18th Amendment via the 21st Amendment. I contend that federal drug laws are unconstitutional because they do not stem from a constitutional amendment.
Since the Constitution defines our freedoms negatively, states and individuals retain all rights that are not explicitly delegated to the federal government. The 10th Amendment states: “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.” In other words, because the Constitution is silent on drugs, states alone have the constitutional power to regulate drugs.
Voters in states like California have exercised their constitutional right to legalize drugs, specifically medicinal marijuana to help cancer patients and those suffering from chronic pain due to autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis.
Californians aren’t flower power hippies. These voters realize that if it’s constitutional for individual Americans to binge on four-to-five alcoholic drinks in one sitting—drinks that incidentally do nothing to relieve chronic pain—it makes sense to legalize a far less lethal substance like marijuana with verified pain-relief benefits.
A prestigious medical study published by The Lancet in November 2010 reveals that alcohol is more lethal than heroin and crack cocaine and drastically more harmful than marijuana, ecstasy and LSD. On Jan. 6, 2012, The Lancet reaffirmed these findings with a global study revealing that: “marijuana was the world’s most widely consumed illicit drug … [and] the least likely of all illicit drugs to cause death,” as The New York Times relays.
We have not amended the Constitution to outlaw drugs. Nor did the war on drugs germinate in Congress. Instead, successive court rulings and executive orders have unconstitutionally banned drug use at the federal level—even to the point of overriding the sovereignty of states that explicitly legalize drugs.