The Coronavirus crisis has accelerated the conflict between Gavin Newsom, California’s Democratic Governor and President Trump. Newsom has referred to California as a “nation state” and Trump has asserted that he has complete authority over the states. While Newsom was speaking figuratively, Trump was not.
Of course, Newsom knows that California is only a state, but he also knows, as Trump apparently does not, that the Tenth Amendment says, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” In short, the President doesn’t have the Constitutional authority to open or close a state, but the conflict goes much deeper.
In fairness to Trump, the Tenth Amendment does not come up a lot in Washington, because it is truly “more honored in the breach” — to misinterpret Shakespeare, but it is inherent in our system.
In fairness to Newsom, as a former Lieutenant Governor and former mayor of San Francisco, he certainly knows all too well that the Federal government has frequently usurped the supposed sovereignty of California, especially in a previous health disaster, the AIDS epidemic.
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Newsom and the state medical establishment know that federal interference in the state’s efforts to contain the pandemic could cost many lives, but that was also true when AIDS took a terrible toll, especially in San Francisco, and cannabis was almost the only thing that helped relieve the suffering.
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Consequently, San Francisco was the birthplace of marijuana legalization in 1996 with the success of Proposition 215 that legalized “medical marijuana”, and has led to the global unraveling of marijuana prohibition.
The federal government did strongly oppose Proposition 215 and its implementation, but it didn’t have to fight the state’s government because California’s government was shamefully doing everything possible to thwart the will of its people.
Commendably, Governor Newsom has strongly supported California’s sovereignty, but the rights of the people of California are still under assault by the Federal government as Trump follows Jeff Sessions’ prohibitionist policies and his Justice Department threatens the State’s vital marijuana industry.
Trump will not succeed in blocking Newsom’s program for dealing with the pandemic, but the Governor and the people of California must continue to assert the rights of the people and the State as the Federal government attacks California’s efforts to end marijuana prohibition.
The war on marijuana users has been and continues to be a public health disaster, with tens of millions of arrests, the violence of the global “Drug War”, and the suppression of science. Marijuana prohibition has killed far more people than this virus.
I hope that just as Governor Newsom has resisted the current threat to California’s sovereignty, he will feel empowered to demand that the Federal government also respect the freedom of its people and resist Trump’s war on marijuana users. The people of California must remember that eternal vigilance really is the price of liberty.
No Federal raids without protests.
No guilty verdicts in Federal courts.
No Federal propaganda to go unanswered.
No cooperation with Federal investigations.
Liberty, not longer leashes.
On this 420 supporters of marijuana legalization will not be able to celebrate in public because of the pandemic, but we will not be hiding in fear, instead we will be working virtually for real freedom. We must end marijuana prohibition NOW
Richard Cowan is a former National Director of NORML, and co-founder of CBD Seniors.