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Strange bedfellows on a bridge

Politics — and pot — make for strange bedfellows.

The American political landscape is divided along partisan lines, with ideological opponents locked in battle and no quarter given. Partisanship poisons discourse at all levels, with battles joined in Congress, in state legislatures, in towns and counties, in personal relations.

Now, Americans anxiously await the latest news as pols deal with the impending “fiscal cliff,” most unconvinced elected officials can restrain their partisan tendencies and act in a reasonable, practical fashion.

Is there any way, however small, to mend this division? Is there a goal on which dedicated enemies can agree, a situation in which a bridge can be built and “differences” reconciled?

We believe there is. It exists here, in Colorado. And it is not without an ironic twist.

An amendment to the state constitution was passed by a vote of the people and legislators were ordered to draft law to regulate production and sale of marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. At present, an adult in Colorado has the right to possess a limited amount of marijuana as well as to grow a certain amount for personal use. The limited non-profit exchange of the weed is also allowed.

How can this situation dissolve partisan conflict?

Because it is an issue involving states rights, individual rights and the threat of big government. Most conservatives are staunch advocates of states rights. Many on the left voice strong support for individual rights, when it comes to pot.

The Colorado marijuana issue brings folks together.

On the horizon is a potential clash of big government — the federal government — with the will of the people of a state and the assertion of the right of adults in that state to conduct personal business in a freer fashion. What is at question is whether a state can veer out of lockstep with the federal government. Liberal or conservative – this should matter.

Big government has imposed significant and worrisome limitations on the personal freedoms and privacy of individual citizens and business owners during the past decade, much of the erosion resulting from fears of terrorism, drugs and other threats fed by right-wing interests — each fear, coincidentally, supporting a profitable partnership of big government and big business — and/or from pressures of interest groups pushing leftist social agendas.

Now, the federal government must deal with a state constitutional amendment running counter to federal law. It is hard to imagine federal legislators acting quickly to alter that law, so the administration, the U.S. Attorney General and the federal law enforcement system he leads, have a choice: enforce federal law, or hold off and use the state as a laboratory to test the viability of what could soon become a nationwide trend.

If it comes to enforcement, values will be put to the test.

As Jon Caldera of the Independence Institute points out in a recent article: If you are “conservative” and detest the affirmative vote on pot, the only way you can have your way is to abandon your values and support the primacy of big government, agreeing with a federal government crackdown in Colorado.

If you are on the left, you must face the fact that the big government you advocate is crushing the state’s right and individual rights. Further, you must come to a greater understanding of the oppressive forces exerted by federal regulations on “personal property rights and freedom of association.”

There is a bridge here and honest ideologues must cross it, joining forces to ensure that rights of individuals and states are upheld. Does such a bridge exist elsewhere?

Karl Isberg

This story was posted on November 29, 2012.