A version of this federalist policy in drug law is what Sessions and the Department of Justice hope to stymie with their new policy. It is a strange quirk of a party that usually calls for smaller, more locally based government. Republicans want to return abortion law to the states, health care to the states, and welfare policy to the states, but on drug policy they put forth arguments for federal jurisdiction that sound an awful lot like Democrats’ ideas. In one area they could create a bipartisan consensus on federalism, the Sessions wing of the party refuses to budge.
It is not a new problem. In the late 1990s, states’ medicinal marijuana laws tested the cooperation between states and the feds on drug policy. In 2004, these disagreements reached the Supreme Court in the case of Gonzales v. Raich, which they decided the following year.
Those advocating for local control sounded an awful lot like conservatives on other matters of federal overreach, as they questioned how the federal power to regulate interstate commerce could be construed to allow banning a product that was grown and consumed entirely within one state. Essentially: if a person grows marijuana in his backyard and smokes it on his back porch, where is the interstate commerce? How is it any of the federal government’s business?