Sanctuary Cities and Recreational Marijuana

Sanctuary cities deliberately refer to themselves using this confrontational terminology, indicating that they provide a sanctuary for those who are in the country illegally.  They do so by refusing to aid the federal government in enforcing federal immigration law.

Sanctuary cities could be less confrontational if they dropped the terminology and simply said they enforce their own laws, but they do not enforce the laws of other governments.  Sanctuary cities are not shielding immigrants from federal enforcement, they just are not cooperating with the federal government to enforce federal law.

My reaction to this less confrontational view of sanctuary cities is to think that local law enforcement agencies enforce local laws, and it is up to the federal government to enforce federal laws.  Why should local governments be required to enforce the laws of the federal government?  What’s next?  Should local governments also be looking for people who cheat on their income taxes?

Readers can surely see the relationship between sanctuary cities and the consumption of recreational marijuana, which is legal in several states but violates federal law.  There is an uneasy tension here between state and federal law, but so far the federal government has not asked state and local governments to enforce its laws against the consumption of marijuana.

To be consistent on the two issues, either the federal government would leave sanctuary cities alone and enforce its own laws without local government assistance, or would require that local governments aid in the apprehension of recreational marijuana users and sellers even in states where state laws allow it.

I will end with a question for readers:  Should local governments be responsible for enforcing federal laws?

Randall G. Holcombe is Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and DeVoe Moore Professor of Economics at Florida State University. His Independent books include Housing America: Building Out of a Crisis (edited with Benjamin Powell); and Writing Off Ideas: Taxation, Foundations, and Philanthropy in America .
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