Will President Obama take legal action to stop California from legalizing marijuana just as he has done to block Arizona's immigration law?
That's the question every former Drug Enforcement Administration czar, Republican and Democrat, wants answered before Californians cast their ballots on Proposition 19, which puts the authority to regulate -- or not regulate -- marijuana in the hands of local governments. The measure would allow adults to possess up to one ounce of marijuana. Local governments would be allowed to tax its sales.
In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, all nine former DEA administrators said legalizing pot presented the same threat to federal authority as Arizona's immigration crackdown, The Associated Press reported.
Obama's drug czar, former Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske, has said he opposes the measure, but the former DEA administrators contend the Justice Department should forcefully come out against it before the election. If Proposition 19 is approved, the former administrators say in their letter, Obama should sue.
Before Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed her state's immigration law in April, Obama called it misguided. His administration then sued, citing the Constitution's Supremacy Clause, which says that when state and federal laws are at odds, federal law prevails.
It would seem the former drug czars' stand on this issue is solid on principle. If Obama does anything other than file a lawsuit against California it would be inconsistent and hypocritical.
Yet, hypocrisy is nothing new when it comes to politics.
And when it comes to marijuana use, the issue has many shades of gray because several states -- including Washington and Oregon -- have legalized pot for medical reasons.
So, if state voters can supersede federal law for medical marijuana, why not for other purposes?
That question isn't as pressing right now because more and more people have become convinced -- as we have -- that marijuana does have a legitimate role in pain control and other medical concerns.
Congress needs to rethink the federal government's role in regard to marijuana. Instead of looking at all marijuana as a street drug that's always abused, marijuana should be regulated like other drugs, such as codeine and morphine.
Unfortunately, politics has obscured the debate. Marijuana has become a symbol in the war on drugs. The federal government has felt a need to crack down on pot use regardless of the circumstances.
Perhaps if federal marijuana laws were more in line with what is really going on then Californians wouldn't be considering legalization and the former drug czars wouldn't be shining a light on what could become a hypocritical situation.