Letters + Opinion » The Week in Weed

Piecemeal Nullification, Dude



In what can only be considered a decisive win for marijuana enthusiasts, the United States Supreme Court this week struck down a challenge of Colorado's recreational use law.

Attempting to leverage a provision that allows the SCOTUS to mitigate disputes between states, Oklahoma and Nebraska filed a joint suit directly with the nation's highest court alleging that Colorado's law was in violation of the federal Controlled Substances Act and allowed marijuana to pour over the border and into their states, where it remains illegal.

"The state of Colorado authorizes, oversees, protects and profits from a sprawling $100-million-per-month marijuana growing, processing and retailing organization that exported thousands of pounds of marijuana to some 36 states in 2014," state attorneys for Nebraska and Oklahoma argued in the suit, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. "If this entity were based south of our border, the federal government would prosecute it as a drug cartel."

In a 6-2 vote, with justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito Jr. dissenting, the SCOTUS turned away the lawsuit, apparently unmoved by the middle states' argument. Perhaps it was just the hypothetic the justices found unpersuasive, as they realize the feds are doing little to prosecute the array of cartels moving untold amounts of illicit products across the U.S. border.

Oklahoma and Nebraska also argued that the Obama administration has essentially turned its back on federal law, and is permitting it to be "dismantled by piecemeal nullification." Nullification, of course, is the theory held by Thomas Jefferson that states can and must refuse to enforce federal laws that are unconstitutional.

Hmm, piecemeal nullification. That kind of has a nice ring to it. Maybe someone ought to name a strain after it.

America's Green Rush is being whitewashed, reports Amanda Chicago Lewis in Buzzfeed.

Lewis writes that every state that has legalized medical or recreational marijuana has put laws in place banning people with felony drug convictions on their records from being involved in cannabis businesses at any level, whether it's working for them, owning them, investing in them or sitting on their boards. This has a hugely disproportionate impact on minorities, Lewis writes, and is effectively keeping them out of the budding industry. In her piece, Lewis estimates that fewer than three dozen of the up to 3,600 storefront marijuana dispensaries in the United States — about 1 percent — are owned by black people.

Lewis largely attributes this to the fact that minorities who smoke, possess or grow marijuana have historically been way more likely to get busted for it than their white counterparts. (A recent American Civil Liberties Union analysis found that — though blacks and whites use marijuana at roughly equal rates — blacks are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for possession).

But the reporter also notes that there are economic disparities at play as well, as it costs a lot of money to open a weed business and the nation has great wealth disparities along racial lines. (Forbes reports that the typical black household in the U.S. has just 6 percent of the wealth of the typical white household; the average Latino household has just 8 percent.)

Whatever the layered causes, Lewis notes that the weed industry — once "open to anyone with some seeds and some hustle" — is now being concentrated in white hands.

"Legalizing marijuana sounds revolutionary, but with every day that passes, the same class of rich white men that control all other industries are tightening their grip on this one, snatching up licenses and real estate and preparing for a windfall," she writes. "First-mover advantage, they call it."

Add a comment