On November 6, 2012, Americans overwhelmingly re-elected Barack Obama as President of the United States.
And on the same date, Americans in Colorado and Washington state overwhelmingly voted to decriminalize and regulate the possession of an ounce or less of marijuana by adults over 21.
But at the Federal level, marijuana remains a prohibited, Schedule 1 drug.
And the Justice Department–seeing these initiatives as a direct challenge to its authority–are considering taking legal action against those states.
Among their weapons: Federal asset forfeiture laws which allow the Justice Department to seize properties used to facilitate violations of Federal anti-drug laws.
Prosecutors and case-agents view the seizing of drug-related properties as crucial to eliminating the financial clout of drug-dealing operations.
Thus, financially-strapped police agencies have found that pursuing drug-law crimes is a great way to fill their own coffers.
Nonsmoking tenants in apartment buildings who do not wish to inhale the cancerous fumes of marijuana smokers will likely find their options limited.
In San Francisco, landlords can ban smoking from common areas of their apartment buildings–such as the lobby and hallways. But if a tenant wants to toak up in his unit and that stench enters another apartment, city laws do not provide for a remedy.
In most cities and states, apartment residents will face a bitter truth: The legal system has not yet caught up with the scientific realities of the carcinogenic properties of tobacco–or marijuana–smoke.
This is comparable to the situation existing 25 years ago, when people could openly smoke in Federal buildings across the nation. And when restaurants offered “non-smoking” sections–which were often polluted with the smoke of cigarettes, pipes and even cigars.
Over time, the law finally caught up with the lethal realities of secondhand tobacco smoke. Unfortunately, it has not yet caught up with the equally lethal realities of secondhand marijuana smoke.
But a two-step remedy does lie at hand–for both nonsmoking tenants and cash-strapped Federal agencies:
First: If the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration finds widespread drug-abuse occurring within an apartment complex, it should arrest the tenants involved.
Second, more importantly, the Justice Department should levy a punitively large fine against the landlord on whose property these violations occurred.
The results of such a policy would be as follows:
- The violators of Federal anti-narcotics laws will be immediately put out of business.
- The revenues from the fine(s) can be divided between (1) financing future law enforcement efforts; and (2) financing the workings of Federal agencies generally.
- Thus, the Government can generate untold and desperately-needed revenues—without making itself politically vulnerable to the charge of raising taxes. Only law-ignoring landlords and their drug-dealing tenants will protest the enforcement of such fines.
- In San Francisco alone, more than two-thirds of its residents are renters. Multiply the number of apartment complexes that exist just in this small city by the number that exist in larger ones—such as Los Angeles and New York—and you can easily imagine the revenues to be generated.
- Landlords who are assessed such fines will be served unmistakable notice that passively tolerating violations of Federal narcotics laws is no longer in their best interests.
- They, in turn, will take a far more pro-active approach to combing known drug-dealers and –abusers from their rolls of tenants.
- This, in turn, will make their complexes far safer for their law-abiding tenants.
- The Federal Government need not burden itself with assuming custody of such properties. Since landlords live essentially for their wallets, the levying of massive fines against them will send a message they cannot/will not dare ignore in the future.
- If the Federal Government chooses to seize apartment complexes found in violation of Federal anti-drug laws, it can strip the current owners of those properties and re-sell the complexes—as it now sells other properties bought with drug-tainted monies.
- Presumably the new owners of those properties will take warning from the successful prosecution of the previous owners.
Conventional remedies are useless against unconventional law-breakers.
By simply putting the onus on landlords to police their own buildings, the Justice Department can, in one stroke, accomplish a series of worthwhile goals on behalf of:
- law-abiding tenants;
- the Federal Government generally; and
- those Americans served by its agencies.