The Constitution gives the United States federal government some sovereignty over states and American citizens. Federalism is “a political system in which the national government shares power with local governments” (Scardino 49). The federal system is characterized by shared responsibility between the state and federal governments. In this system, states have certain political authority and the supreme power to make final decisions concerning important public policy matters. Therefore, in this context, the concept of states’ rights refers to the decision-making rights and powers the U.S. Constitution reserved for individual states. These rights are enshrined in the provisions of the 10th Amendment; thus, the federal government cannot interfere with or breach them.
In their news article, Berke et al. provide a comprehensive picture of current events in the legalization of cannabis in the U.S. According to their report, 36 states have legalized medical marijuana, while 16 states and Washington, DC, have passed laws making this substance legal for adults aged 21 years and above (Berke et al.). These statistics indicate increased access to medical and recreational marijuana in the country. The states of Virginia, South Dakota, and New Mexico have tried to take control of the marijuana market by voting for or passing laws legalizing its use for medical and recreational purposes. New Jersey and New York governors followed this trend by signing bills legalizing cannabis in their respective jurisdictions. Unlike countries such as Canada which have legalized marijuana through voting, the U.S. federal government has maintained that cannabis is an illegal drug.
The journal article by Pacula and Smart notes that many states increasingly supporting more liberal policies to promote cannabis legalization (397). According to the authors, the history of this trend can be traced back to the 1970s when state governments started passing policies decriminalizing cannabis use and in the 1990s when they began adopting medical marijuana (Pacula and Smart 397). However, they caution that research evidence supporting the medical and recreational benefits of cannabis is inconclusive. According to this article, the federal government tries to keep control over all activities related to cultivating, distributing, possessing, or using marijuana. They pursue this objective by passing laws and policies that prohibit this drug (Pacula and Smart 398). Charges for using this product depend on the amount of marijuana involved and the nature of the activity and vary from a misdemeanor to a felony. For example, selling cannabis to minors may be treated as a severe offense, thus attracting more stringent sanctions.
The New York Times article by Ferré-Sadurní reveals that medical marijuana and the legalization of marijuana are increasingly becoming popular and acceptable in the U.S. According to this source, states’ rights advocates view marijuana legalization as a way of achieving racial equity. Decriminalizing this drug can generate income that state governments can leverage to develop low-income, minority communities with disproportionally higher marijuana-related arrests and incarceration. Tax revenues from cannabis sales can be reinvested in low-income minority communities such as Blacks and Latinos due to their large disparities in marijuana-related arrests and incarceration (Ferré-Sadurní). However, the federal government and opponents object to marijuana legalization by citing health and safety concerns associated with the decision. For example, Republican lawmakers, parent-teacher associations, and law enforcement groups have criticized attempts to decriminalize laws and policies labeling cannabis as a prohibited drug. These parties argue that decriminalization may increase cases of people driving under the influence of marijuana (Ferré-Sadurní). Such views counter states’ authority to legalize medical and recreational marijuana.
Berke, Jeremy, Shayanne, Gal, and Yeji Jesse Lee. “Marijuana Legalization Is Sweeping the US. See Every State Where Cannabis Is Legal.” Business Insider, 2021. Web.
Ferré-Sadurní, Luis. “New York Legalizes Recreational Marijuana, Tying Move to Racial Equity.” New York Times, 2021. Web.
Pacula, Rosalie Liccardo, and Rosanna Smart. “Medical Marijuana and Marijuana Legalization.” Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, vol. 13, 2017, pp. 397-419. Web.
Scardino, Franco. U.S. Government and Politics. 2nd ed., Alpha, 2016.