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Picking on little people

The U.S. Department of Justice has been cracking down on medical marijuana in a way that threatens the liberties of people in states where medical pot has been legalized. That includes Oregon.

You would think Justice has more important things to do. Clean house, for instance. This is the agency that concocted "Fast and Furious," a scheme to allow guns to get into the hands of suspected traffickers for Mexican drug cartels in the hopes of catching somebody. Two of the weapons showed up at the murder of a Border Patrol agent last December.

On medical marijuana, we have a clear conflict between states and the federal government. Congress continues to classify marijuana as illegal. But states such as Oregon and California have said it's OK for medical uses.

Instead of confronting the states, the government picks on little people. In California, federal prosecutors have threatened to confiscate the property of people who rent to marijuana outlets. And in Oregon's Jackson County, federal agents have mounted three recent raids against growers of medical pot.

The conflict could be solved by Congress. It should exempt medical marijuana from the federal prohibition.

Or, if it felt courageous and unusually sensible some day, Congress could go all the way and end the federal prohibition against this common weed. That would leave the states free to make their own laws, and if the voters have anything to say about it, as in Oregon, marijuana's appeal as the forbidden fruit would be a thing of the past.

It is incomprehensible how the U.S. Supreme Court could have upheld — as it did in 2005 — the federal prosecution of home-grown marijuana even in states that have legalized it. The court has said privacy rights protect the decision of a citizen to have her unborn baby killed, but there is no privacy protection for growing a plant? Talk about a system that is upside down.

The Oregon Legislature may tackle this issue in 2013. Sound arguments can be made for decriminalizing pot all the way. Let us see if our lawmakers are willing to challenge the government by taking such a decisive step.