Stoned federalism

Stoned federalism July 29, 2014

The United States Constitution sets up a system of federalism, a union of states, each of which can have separate laws.  We are seeing some quirks of federalism today, as certain states legalize and commercialize what neighboring states treat as a serious crime.

Colorado is turning marijuana into a major industry and tourist attraction, while police from the states next door are filling their jails with people who have brought their purchases over the state line.

The police insist that they are not just waiting across the border to haul in marijuana tourists coming home.  They say when they pull over speeders, the aroma of marijuana is often so strong that the violations are obvious.  The local police and sheriff’s offices are, in fact, complaining that the number of apprehensions is straining their budgets and costing local taxpayers too much money.

Colorado’s neighbor Nebraska actually decriminalized the possession of less than an ounce of the weed a number of years ago, levying only a $300 fine.  But possession of a pound or more is still a felony, the assumption being that anyone with that much cannabis must be selling it.  But Colorado has found big sales with marijuana-laced chocolate bars, candy, cakes, and drinks, and it doesn’t take much of that to make a pound.  So some Nebraskans are running across the state line to Colorado and bringing back a stash that is landing them in serious legal jeopardy.

Read this article in the Washington Post, which tells about Sedgewick, Colorado, a dying small town right on the Nebraska border, which has turned itself into an emporium for selling marijuana and munchies to out-of-staters–many of whom then find themselves in Nebraska jails:

At Colorado’s borders, a dividing line over marijuana – The Washington Post.

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