Vail Daily letter: States’ rights | VailDaily.com
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Vail Daily letter: States’ rights

The people of Eagle County, in their collective wisdom, have elected James van Beek as their sheriff. With that event consummated, I pose one question to Sheriff van Beek — as we have a federal statute that proscribes the possession, cultivation, sale and consumption of marijuana (a schedule I narcotic) as a felony, and as we have a state constitutional amendment that legalizes that activity, where would your responsibility and loyalty lay when those two conflicting jurisdictions call upon you to perform your enforcement duties? Would you enforce the federal statute, even if it means the arrest and conviction of an Eagle County resident, or even worse, his death as a result of resistance? Would you enforce the Constitution of the state of Colorado and the ordinances of this county, if that would mean a physical confrontation with federal authorities?

As a citizen of the state of Colorado and this county, I would ask that you empathize with me as a “citizen” caught in a conundrum between two conflicting jurisdictions and the laws that they prescribe. And I therefore would request that you consider and take the direction toward “states’ rights” in the performance of your duties and oath of office. Your obligation to the people of this county is to support the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of the state of Colorado, and the ordinances of Eagle County — in that order of priority. When you look to the U.S. Constitution for guidance, you will be cognizant of the 10th Amendment and Article I, Section 8 thereof. Nowhere therein can you find any expression relating to marijuana. You only find it buried in the tomes of the United States Code or the CFRs. Article I sets forth the delimited powers of the United States, and Amendment 10 provides that those powers not expressly granted to the U.S. are reserved to the states or to the people, e.g., people of Colorado.

The Colorado Constitution specifically authorizes the people to possess and enjoy marijuana, and by statute, the Legislature has implemented that provision. With both the federal law and state law in conflict about this subject matter, the county sheriff is called upon which to enforce, and by choosing one over the other, he does not enforce the other. There however is a notable difference between the federal law and that of the state, that being in the first instance the federal law was enacted by representatives in Congress by all of the states, and the latter state law was initiated and enacted by the people of Colorado. Will Sheriff van Beek enforce the will of the people of Colorado, or will he enforce the will of the U.S. Congress who refuses to even address this conflict? I feel he should enforce the Constitution of the United States as the people of this state construe it, until and only until, the Supreme Court of Colorado declares that the Colorado Constitution is invalid as applied to marijuana. And this would be novel, since Colorado courts derive their own authority from that same Constitution that they are called upon to invalidate. It is notable that the U.S. Supreme Court has not invalidated the Colorado marijuana amendment either.



If he chooses, van Beek will be wrong on one score. Yet, if he has empathy for those of us whom he represents in Eagle County, he will be right, if he chooses wisely.

Fredric Butler


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