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Ted Cruz: State’s Rights Hypocrite

Ted Cruz

Like many of his fellow “Tea Party” conservatives, Texas Senator Ted Cruz has been a strong advocate of the idea of state’s rights and federalism, but apparently that doesn’t apply when it comes to marijuana:

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas on Friday criticized President Barack Obama for not arresting people in Colorado who violated federal law by using marijuana.

“A whole lot of folks now are talking about legalizing pot. The brownies you had this morning, provided by the state of Colorado,” he jokingly said during his keynote speech at Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Policy Orientation.

“And you can make arguments on that issue,” Cruz continued. “You can make reasonable arguments on that issue. The president earlier this past year announced the Department of Justice is going to stop prosecuting certain drug crimes. Didn’t change the law.”

Voters in Colorado and Washington state voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in 2013, but federal law still prohibits the use of the drug. The Department of Justice announced in August of 2013 that it would not target for arrest adults who used marijuana in compliance with state laws.

(…)

You can go to Congress, you can get a conversation, you could get Democrats and Republicans who would say, ‘We ought to change our drug policy in some way,’ and you could have a real conversation, you could have hearings, you could look at the problem, you could discuss commonsense changes that maybe should happen or shouldn’t happen. This president didn’t do that. He just said, ‘The laws say one thing’ — and mind you these are criminal laws, these are laws that say if you do ‘X, Y, and Z’ you will go to prison. The president announced, ‘No, you won’t.’”

Here’s the video (Full speech here):

So, let’s get this straight. States have rights when it comes to Obamacare, same-sex marriage, and abortion. But not when it comes to evil, evil weed. Have I got that right, Senator Cruz?

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Kyle Huckins says:

    Wow, a Republican who only favors state’s rights when they oppose individual liberty. What’s next, wet water?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 50 Thumb down 4

  2. Bob says:

    I think you missed his point, Doug. While he used drug policy in this clip as the example, I think he was referring to the bigger picture of the President and his cabinet members and heads of departments deciding which laws they “feel” like enforcing.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 14 Thumb down 26

  3. @Bob:

    That’s called prosecutorial discretion. Nothing wrong with it.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 36 Thumb down 4

  4. Bob says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Then why have a congress to pass laws? Why not just let the Executive Branch decide what they want to be legal and illegal after each election?

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 11 Thumb down 22

  5. Sejanus says:

    I hate to say it but I think he does have a point. The Controlled Substance Act was found constitutional by SCOTUS and therefore needs to be enforced so long as Congress doesn’t amend the law. Not enforcing it because a state passed legislation which contradicts it opens the way to nullification. What if Alabama passes legislation that contradicts the Civil Rights Act or the Voting Rights Act? Does Obama refrain from enforcing those laws too?

    Also, I wonder if not enforcing the CSA in one state might impede the enforcement of it in others. Let’s suppose that I smoke a joint in Iowa and gets prosecuted for it. Can’t I claim that the government has violated my right to equal protection due to its refusal to prosecute people who commit the same offense in Denver?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 8

  6. So you people actually think that it’s a wise use of federal resources to sweep into a state and arrest everyone who possesses, sells, or uses marijuana (which, technically, Federal law would authorize them to do) even though it such activities are permitted under state law?

    We already have overcrowded prisons and ruined lives because of people being tossed into jail over non-violent drug crimes, at both the state and federal level. Prosecutors have the option to decline to prosecute and police have the option to decline to arrest, that discretion has existed for a long, long time, long before Barack Obama and Eric Holder came along. I see no rational reason why the fact that people in Colorado are buying and selling legal pot should literally be Federal Case unless there is interstate violence associated with what’s going on.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 40 Thumb down 4

  7. Sejanus says:

    @Doug Mataconis: So what if the current and/or a future administration decides that they’re not into enforcing the Civil Rights Act?

    EDIT: And just for record, I would classify myself as a liberal who is pro-gay rights, pro choice, pro cannabis legislation and if I was an American citizen I would have probably voted for the Democrats most of the time. It’s just that I do find it somewhat problematic to see the executive deciding not to enforce certain laws it finds inconvenient.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 6

  8. al-Ameda says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    So you people actually think that it’s a wise use of federal resources to sweep into a state and arrest everyone who possesses, sells, or uses marijuana (which, technically, Federal law would authorize them to do) even though it such activities are permitted under state law?

    Amen. In every big city, the city attorney, the mayor and governing board, make hard decisions as to what laws will be aggressively enforced and where limited budget resources are best deployed. This happens all the time. People pretend like all laws are equally enforced – most cities cannot afford that.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 1

  9. Sejanus says:

    @al-Ameda: False analogy. CSA was continually enforced in Coloardo and Washington up until the end of 2012, there is no resources problem in enforcing it. I grant you that the drug war is failing, but I still find it problematic that the administration can just choose not to enforce a law like that. What if an hypothetical administration would have decided not to enforce certain anti-corruption laws because than they would have to prosecute people who are close to the president?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 5

  10. michael reynolds says:

    “States Rights” is approximately 90% about race. It’s the empty little words people toss out when what they really mean is “Ni-gers!” So I find myself un-surprised that yet another “conservative” is a wee bit inconsistent on so-called state’s rights. They don’t want state’s rights on weed, they don’t want state’s rights on same sex marriage, they don’t want state’s rights on abortion. They do not give a rat’s ass about some abstraction called “State’s Rights.” This has never been anything but bulls-it.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 31 Thumb down 6

  11. James Pearce says:

    @Sejanus:

    What if an hypothetical administration would have decided not to enforce certain anti-corruption laws because than they would have to prosecute people who are close to the president?

    What does that have to do with this?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

  12. MarkedMan says:

    @Sejanus: Your hypothetical is very real. Not only did the Bush administration effectively stop enforcing the civil rights act while in power, in a macabre twist, they started using it to sue for discrimination against white people.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 3

  13. bill says:

    @MarkedMan: civil rights apply to all, “white” people can be discriminated against just like anyone else. all “white” people aren’t the same- we come from all over the place and our current prez is half “white’ too. see, slippery slope!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 15

  14. Andre Kenji says:

    @Sejanus:

    What if Alabama passes legislation that contradicts the Civil Rights Act or the Voting Rights Act? Does Obama refrain from enforcing those laws too?

    There is the 14th amendtment, and then there is the 10th Amendment. Part of the problem is that many Libertarians and Conservatives always complained that there is no authority under the Constitution for the Federal Government to ban drugs, and that´s something that should be done via Constitutional Amendment. like it was done with booze.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  15. LightsOut says:

    Jeebus, some of you need to calm down and stop insisting on seeing things in such binary terms.

    Two states out of 50 have elected to try out an experiment that most sane observers agree has long been overdue. The federal government—respecting the the will of the people of those states and taking seriously the mounting evidence of serious problems with current drug policy—has responded by pulling back a bit to allow the experiments to go forward and see what happens. I think we all understand that if problems arise, then the feds will very quickly declare the experiments a failure and pick up right where they left off.

    Now, granted, all of this may be happening quickly and in a way that isn’t completely tidy. But come on. Who really believes that this isn’t a good thing?

    Sometimes “slippery slopes” matter. And sometimes they don’t. The deciding factor is good judgement.

    PS. If any administration decided not to enforce the Civil Rights Act or do something equally nefarious, the backlash would be something to behold. Which is why it wouldn’t happen. Again, judgement.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  16. al-Ameda says:

    @Sejanus:

    What if an hypothetical administration would have decided not to enforce certain anti-corruption laws because than they would have to prosecute people who are close to the president?

    Who is talking about anything like that? I’m talking about normal everyday choices that have to be made, not about criminal action on the part of elected officials.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  17. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Bob: Not picking on you Bob, but how many people raised similar objections when GWB stopped enforcing environmental laws? I’ll admit I found that objectionable and don’t mind this at all, but then I am one of the rare breed who distinguishes between good laws and stupid ones and thinks that even tho Congress is so obstructed we should still adjust to the real world. As Doug mentioned above, prosecutorial discretion is a well established legal construct.

    Also I am among the weird people who know that states have no rights, only people do. You may well agree, don’t know.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  18. Tyrell says:

    I agree with this. The voters in the states should be deciding these issues. Not the President, Department of Justice, Attorney General Cantor (who is consistent in pickIng and choosing the battles), the “Supreme” Court , and activist judges who interefere and go against the will of the people. That is the way it should be, even if it comes out the wrong way for me.
    “Let those who ride decide”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 5

  19. M. Simon says:

    Federal policy is to not go after individual users. The States do that. The policy has been that way for as long as I can rember. What Cruz is proposing is a change in Federal policy.

    I gave OTB some link love on the subject here: http://classicalvalues.com/2014/01/republicans-are-trying-for-an-own-goal/

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  20. stonetools says:

    I agree that Ted Cruz is being hypocritical here and that states rights is 90 percent keeping down black people. However, I also have to point out there is enough inconsistency to go around. After all, prosecutor discretion is part of administrative discretion. And in December, Doug had a cow every time the Administration used its discretion to change an ACA deadline.”That’s illegal”, he thundered. “If Administration wants to change an ACA deadline, it must go to Congress, even if there is no chance that Congress would do anything other than try to screw up the ACA”.
    What a difference a month makes. Now Doug is all “administrative discretion is a Good Thing, so long as in support of marijuana legalization”.
    My inconsistently consistent take on this is that the executive has broad discretion to enforce the laws, so long as it doesn’t violate the Constitution. That means the Obama Administration has the power to both vary ACA deadlines and selectively enforce the federal drug laws.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  21. M. Simon says:

    @Sejanus: The Feds did not target individuals. The States did that. Cruz is proposing a change in Federal policy (target every law breaker) when the Feds don’t have the resources for that. The Feds have traditionally targeted quantity and the occasional user that got caught up in the Federal WOD. But they never went after individuals as a policy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  22. Neil Hudelson says:

    You can go to Congress, you can get a conversation, you could get Democrats and Republicans who would say, ‘We ought to change our drug policy in some way,’ and you could have a real conversation, you could have hearings, you could look at the problem, you could discuss commonsense changes that maybe should happen or shouldn’t happen. This president didn’t do that. He just said, ‘The laws say one thing’ — and mind you these are criminal laws, these are laws that say if you do ‘X, Y, and Z’ you will go to prison. The president announced, ‘No, you won’t.’”

    My, that sounds an awfully lot like your job, Teddy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  23. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Andre Kenji: Wow! What a great idea! A Constitutional amendment banning street drugs! What could possibly go wrong?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  24. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    While I’m still here, there’s no hypocrisy at all. Ted Cruz holds that states have the right to oppose the Obama administration, not federal law. They’re completely different.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  25. grumpy realist says:

    @Tyrell: Uh, the people of the state DID decide on the law that’s being implemented. It’s the fact that the federal law isn’t getting implemented even though Congress still hasn’t repealed it that is getting people’s panties in a twist…..

    It all boils down to how Platonic you want the implementation of your legal system to be. I guess I come down on the other side of this. If it’s a bad federal law, then we should be poking our Congresscritters to get it repealed, not wait for the POTUS to judiciously decide which laws to enforce. It’s bad law, but it’s on the books. Unless people bitch sufficiently, we’ll never get it officially OFF the books.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  26. Brian says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Absolutely right! The whole States’ rights argument has been a smoke screen used by Republicans. Just go back and find statements by Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin, or Michelle Bachman and insert Marijuana for what ever topic they were talking about, probably something to do with health care or gay rights. Now watch them run from the concept. Spineless hypocrites.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0