In marked contrast to many other nations, the United States features an interesting, complex and sometimes bewildering interplay between federal and state legislation. Sometimes enactments passed on both Capitol Hill and in the legislature of Georgia or some other state are fully complementary. Sometimes the federal law will be cited to trump state legislation. At other times, the federal government displays disinterest and apathy over a subject and is content to let state lawmakers oversee its construction and administration.
In other words, federalism can be tricky and at times more than just a bit convoluted.
Take the recent state amendments in Colorado and Washington that voters passed and that now allow for recreational marijuana use among state residents. The details of marijuana legalization in both states have never before been so liberal regarding possession and use.
And, still, lawmakers in both states have expressed concerns that federal authorities will act to prosecute casual smokers on drug charges, notwithstanding the fact that the voters have spoken.
In response to that, and despite his stated view that he does not presently support widespread marijuana legalization, President Obama has voiced comments that seek to reassure legislators in Washington and Colorado that they needn’t fear a harsh retaliatory response from the federal government.
“We’ve got bigger fish to fry,” Obama said in a recent television interview.
The U.S. Department of Justice has not yet issued any official response on what has been termed “the murky gray areas that overlap enforcement jurisdictions,” but the federal government has been notably low key and muted in its statements thus far in the wake of the Colorado and Washington amendments.
Source: MSNBC, “Obama: ‘Bigger fish to fry’ than go after pot smokers,” Amanda Sakuma, Dec. 14, 2012
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