Katie Kieffer

‘And when the court decides to apply the Bill of Rights to state law, it winds up trampling … on the most important safeguard of our liberties: the division of power between the federal and state governments. … By the middle of the twentieth century the “due process” clause within the Fourteenth Amendment had come to be seen as the catchall phrase for federal intervention,’ writes author Jason Lewis in “Power Divided is Power Checked.”

Today, the Federal government, via the Department of Justice, has violated the separation of powers that the Founding Fathers wrote into the Constitution. Federal agents allege that medical marijuana dispensaries and growers violate “federal law”—ripping out medicinal cannabis plants and destroying legitimate livelihoods overnight.

The New York Times reports: “Federal law classifies the possession and sale of marijuana as a serious crime and does not grant exceptions for medical use, so the programs adopted here, in 15 other states and in the District of Columbia exist in an odd legal limbo. … federal prosecutors have raided or threatened to seize the property of scores of growers and dispensaries in California that, in some cases, are regarded by local officials as law-abiding models. At the same time, the Internal Revenue Service has levied large, disputed tax charges against the state’s largest dispensary, threatening its ability to continue.”

The war on drugs began when President Richard Nixon bypassed Congress and declared a war on drugs on July 17, 1971. He said that drug abuse was a “national emergency” and America’s “public enemy number one.” He signed the “war” into law on January 28, 1972. By unconstitutional executive order, Nixon created the first drug czar and also created an extra-congressional agency to regulate drugs called the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Successive Presidents have sustained this war.

Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution gives Congress (not the president) the “Power … To declare war.” Federalist and framer Alexander Hamilton further explains the Constitution’s checks on executive reach in The Federalist No. 78. He says the president publicly declares and enforces the laws Congress makes and the decisions or appointments Congress approves: “The Executive not only dispenses the honors, but holds the sword of the community.”

Some might object that America’s forty-year-long and over $2.5-trillion fight against drug abuse isn’t technically a “war.” But that’s a hard position to defend when scores of innocent Americans and Mexicans have died throughout our combat with brutal Mexican drug cartels. Since 2006 alone, when President Felipe Calderón declared his own war against drugs, between 40,000 and 50,000 people (depending on your source) have died in this conflict.

Moreover, the right to own your entire person is a fundamental human right and it is foundational to the Constitution. Unless you use wrongful force against another person or their property, you retain full ownership over your body. As John Locke points out, reason tells you that you fully own your body. No one else owns your body—not your neighbors, your family or the government.

Rep. Ron Paul explains: “All of our freedoms – the freedom of religion and assembly, the freedom of speech, the right to bear arms, the right to be free from unnecessary government searches and seizures – stem from the precept that you own yourself and are responsible for your own choices. Prohibition laws negate self-ownership and are an absolute affront to the principles of freedom. I disagree vehemently with the recreational use of drugs, but at the same time, if people are only free to make good decisions, they are not truly free. In any case, states should decide for themselves how to handle these issues and the federal government should respect their choices.”

Freedom is the power to choose between good and bad options for our own private property and body; freedom is the power to opt for healthy behaviors like prayer, aerobic exercise and strength training over unhealthy behaviors like self-mutilation, chain smoking, binge drinking and inhaling pain thinner. I think the federal government needs to respect individual freedom by deferring to the states in matters like drug use where the Constitution is silent.


Katie Kieffer

Katie Kieffer is a columnist and political commentator. She runs KatieKieffer.com. Kieffer is the author of the forthcoming book "LET ME BE CLEAR."