On May 25, Utah Sen. Mike Lee (R) enjoyed a rather thought provoking conversation with C-Span’s Neal Katyal regarding the 10th Amendment, federalism, government overreach, and the complex issue of voter-approved state marijuana laws.
A timely issue for states that have reformed their counterproductive pot laws, Sen. Lee’s new book scrutinized the federal government’s overreach and assessed just how ‘The Forgotten Founders Who Fought Big Government’ would have reacted to a United States Atty. Gen. threatening the sovereignty of individual states – for simply legalizing a peaceful herb.
For his new book, “Written Out of History: The Forgotten Founders Who Fought Big Government,” the Utah Senator evokes the powerful philosophy that motivated our seemingly forgotten forefathers who fought valiantly against an overly burdensome federal government.
When asked during the interview whether or not Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and the rest of our founding fathers would have allowed the individual states to legalize marijuana, the Utah Republican answered succinctly – ‘Yes.’
“Most certainly, it would have been a matter of first principles.”
The junior Sen. from Utah explained: “I think deciding whether or not you’re going to allow a particular treatment, a particular pharmaceutical product for example; specifically if that product can be produced and sold entirely within the state in question, that a state ought to have that power.”
Sen. Lee, a trailblazer within the GOP, has continuously searched for alternatives to stiff sentences for those accused of low-level crimes. During his 2010 campaign, Sen. Lee continually shared the disheartening story of Weldon Angelos. Sentenced to 55 years in 2004, Angelos was handed what was essentially a life sentence without the possibility of parole for his first marijuana distribution charge.
Once an Assistant U.S. Attorney, Sen. Lee felt the extended sentence was little more than institutionalized cruelty. Instrumental in obtaining the Utah man’s early release from a federal correction facility, Lee’s intervention was paramount in getting Angelos released from prison after 12 long years.
With marijuana decriminalized by a majority of voters in roughly 70% of U.S. states, the will of the people is currently trumping those outdated policies in the nation’s capital. However, with the new ‘law and order’ administration seizing power and threatening all states with federal marijuana enforcement, the tension between legal states and the federal government remains extremely high.
As more states try and legalize cannabis while the federal government moves enthusiastically to enforce their laws against it, many anticipate this debate to spark a constitutional conundrum over the federal government’s ridiculous prohibition.