Their own dirty work

This week, a reluctant-sounding U.S. Supreme Court ruled that neither public votes nor state laws protect citizens from a federal ban on the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Six of the nine justices voted against the states.

Nevada is one of the affected states. Voters of the state have approved medical use of marijuana and state lawmakers decriminalized general use.

The Bush administration has been awaiting this ruling, poised to prosecute the sick and their physicians.

There is no longer any way to deny that marijuana has therapeutic uses, or to ignore the way drug prohibition has ravaged families —particularly those headed by women and particularly African-American families. Those engaged in such ideological denial are being loyal to dogma, not facts, and the public shouldn’t be held hostage to their illusions.

But those dogmatists are the ones who have written federal drug laws, and now state officials across the nation must make sense of state laws that conflict with sanity-free federal laws.

At a minimum, it is essential that on the question of marijuana, Nevada law enforcement must honor the policy set by Nevada voters and state legislators. That doesn’t always happen, as shown by the recent crazed writing of tickets for seatbelt offenses in the state. (The Nevada Legislature reluctantly enacted a mandatory seatbelt law under pressure from corporate lobbyists and federal officials. Legislators made it clear that they wanted laissez faire enforcement by making it a secondary enforcement offense, but police have recently gone hog-wild writing seatbelt citations.)

On marijuana, it’s time for Nevada law enforcement to turn the job of enforcement over entirely to federal officials. There should be no further federal/state cooperation on marijuana. And there should be an end to the way local police build marijuana cases and then turn them over to federal officials empowered under federal law to seize unrelated assets of offenders and then split the take with the locals. Nevada voters and legislators have made clear that they want a policy of non-cooperation with punitive federal policy on marijuana, and Nevada police agencies are not free agents—they must follow that policy.

This may well invite some federal retaliation, but state legislators have already invited such retaliation on the federal No Child Left Behind Act and on helping Nevadans purchase prescription drugs from Canadian pharmacies. One more is no big deal.

The important thing is to make life as easy as possible for Nevada marijuana users, particularly those using the plant for health care, and as difficult as possible for the irrational federal policies.

The federal government has its policies on marijuana, and Nevada has its own. Nevada should stop using its resources to enforce a policy it opposes.