Volume 16
Issue 2
Summer '18

States' Rights and Federal Wrongs: The Misguided Attempt to Label Marijuana Legalization Efforts as a "States' Rights" Issue

Written By: Paul J. Larkin, Jr.

Abstract

Advocates for liberalization of the federal statutes outlawing cannabis have argued that the issue whether and how to regulate marijuana should be left to the states to decide. Yet, we do not allow states to decide whether to prohibit other controlled substances, such as heroin, and there is no good reason to put marijuana in a separate category. Since the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act became law in 1938 the nation has authorized the Food and Drug Administration to decide which drugs to approve for therapeutic use. We do not make those decisions the subject of a referendum because the decision requires the expert scientific judgment of professionals in medicine and biochemistry, not the moral judgment of the populace. Congress should re-examine how federal law regulates marijuana, and Congress should be guided by the judgment of the FDA as to the costs and benefits of liberalizing marijuana use.

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