Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Declaring a Separate Peace in the Drug War

Via Micha Ghertner, the story of an American hero: Gavin Newsom, the mayor of San Francisco. Best known for allowing a spate of same-sex marriages in 2004, Newsom has now pledged to make San Francisco an immigration haven:
The mayor cannot stop federal authorities from making arrests, Newsom told about 300 mostly Latino members of St. Peter's Church and other religious groups supporting immigrants. But no San Francisco employee will help with immigration enforcement.

“I will not allow any of my department heads or anyone associated with this city to cooperate in any way shape or form with these raids,” Newsom declared. “We are a sanctuary city, make no mistake about it.”
Newsom’s strategy brings to mind one of my longstanding policy pipe dreams: that California, or some other state, might declare a separate peace in the drug war. “Yes,” the argument would go, “California does not have the power to repeal federal laws. But it does have to the power to dispose of its own budget and use its own state and city employees as it sees fit. From this point forward, if the federal government wishes to enforce federal drug laws in California, it will have to do so with federal tax dollars and employees. No state tax dollars or state employees will participate in fighting the drug war.” Essentially, the strategy would extend the state's current treatment of medical marijuana to drugs in general.

Of course, the danger is that the federal government would strong-arm California into doing its bidding by threatening to withhold highway funds and other pork-barrel spending. But this is why California would be the ideal state for my strategy: with 53 U.S. representatives, it has the largest congressional delegation, which would presumably resist such budgetary tactics. Even Californian representatives who are drug warriors would have a difficult time depriving their home state of funds because of what the state government had done.

Could it happen?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It could happen and work under some circumstances.

Not very rare ones either. Say a Republican congress and a CA with enough Republican congressmen to give power to the Democrats if they switch sides.

Now if the Democrat minority decide that they would rather have government than a war on drugs... Yes CA could bargain itself a separate peace.