I have several federal criminal cases in Atlanta and other parts of Georgia involving allegations that my clients dealt in marijuana. Some folks in other parts of the country also have contacted me recently about federal criminal prosecutions in states where the local laws permit personal use and state-sponsored sale of marijuana. In virtually all of these cases, someone always asks: “But I thought Pot was legal? How can the federal government prosecute me (or my loved one) if the state where the federal court is in lets people use this drug?”
One of the less well-known parts of our wonderful Constitution is called the “supremacy clause.” If you are interested, you can find it in Article VI, the second paragraph. Here is what it says: “This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.”
The supremacy clause makes a lot of sense for many aspects of life in a democracy. For example, things would be a bit untidy if the law on how to build and maintain a highway changed at the state line separating Alabama from Georgia. Keeping some level of uniformity means that our people can expect the same basic guidelines and laws as we move from place to place in this enormous and beautiful land.