Marijuana, for instance.
Trump, surprisingly, is not declaring the opioid epidemic a national emergency, thank god. What could happen if it were declared is described in the Washington Post:
“From a strictly practical standpoint any emergency declaration would have two main effects, according to Keith Humphreys, an addiction specialist at Stanford University (and frequent Wonkblog contributor) who worked in the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy under President Barack Obama.
“First, it lets states and localities that are designated disaster zones to access money in the federal Disaster Relief Fund, just like they could if they had a tornado or hurricane,” Humphreys said. States and cities would be able to request disaster zone declarations from the White House, which would enable them to use federal funds for drug treatment, overdose-reversal medication and more.
“Second, declaring an emergency allows temporary waivers of many rules regarding federal programs,” Humphreys said. “For example, currently Medicaid can’t reimburse drug treatment in large residential facilities (16 or more beds). That could be waived in an emergency.””
The problem with national emergency declarations is that they provide a unique opportunity for an administration to pursue separate agendas that would not be possible otherwise:
“Groups advocating for a public health-centered approach to the epidemic are worried about what powers an emergency declaration would grant an administration with a fondness for “tough on crime” law enforcement tactics.
“We need to be cautious about the intentions of this administration,” said Grant Smith of the Drug Policy Alliance. “An emergency declaration can be used for good. It can help free up federal resources, help prioritize responses by the federal gov, help give the administration leverage to request legislation from Congress.”
On the other hand, Smith said, “all of those things I just mentioned could be used to further the war on drugs. It could give the administration leverage to push for new sentencing legislation. Or legislation that enhances [drug] penalties or law enforcement response. It could give [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions more leverage to push the agenda that he has been pushing.””
The icing on the cake is that many national emergency declarations are never lifted. As USA Today reported, we are still living under a national emergency declared by Jimmy Carter 35 years ago. There are currently 32 states of national emergency in effect in the United States. George W. Bush declared a state of emergency three days after 9/11, one that was renewed six times by Obama, and is still in effect:
“Those emergencies, declared by the president by proclamation or executive order, give the president extraordinary powers — to seize property, call up the National Guard and hire and fire military officers at will.
“What the National Emergencies Act does is like a toggle switch, and when the president flips it, he gets new powers. It’s like a magic wand. and there are very few constraints about how he turns it on,” said Kim Lane Scheppele, a professor at Princeton University.”
Which is why greater restraint should be imposed on the ability of future chief executives to make these declarations. They often outlive their purpose, but that doesn’t mean they die.
“But at that moment I glanced round at the crowd that had followed me. It was an immense crowd, two thousand at the least and growing every minute. It blocked the road for a long distance on either side. I looked at the sea of yellow faces above the garish clothes-faces all happy and excited over this bit of fun, all certain that the elephant was going to be shot. They were watching me as they would watch a conjurer about to perform a trick. They did not like me, but with the magical rifle in my hands I was momentarily worth watching. And suddenly I realized that I should have to shoot the elephant after all. The people expected it of me and I had got to do it; I could feel their two thousand wills pressing me forward, irresistibly. And it was at this moment, as I stood there with the rifle in my hands, that I first grasped the hollowness, the futility of the white man’s dominion in the East. Here was I, the white man with his gun, standing in front of the unarmed native crowd – seemingly the leading actor of the piece; but in reality I was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind. I perceived in this moment that when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys. He becomes a sort of hollow, posing dummy, the conventionalized figure of a sahib. For it is the condition of his rule that he shall spend his life in trying to impress the “natives,” and so in every crisis he has got to do what the “natives” expect of him. He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it. I had got to shoot the elephant. I had committed myself to doing it when I sent for the rifle. A sahib has got to act like a sahib; he has got to appear resolute, to know his own mind and do definite things. To come all that way, rifle in hand, with two thousand people marching at my heels, and then to trail feebly away, having done nothing – no, that was impossible. The crowd would laugh at me. And my whole life, every white man’s life in the East, was one long struggle not to be laughed at…
…When I pulled the trigger I did not hear the bang or feel the kick – one never does when a shot goes home – but I heard the devilish roar of glee that went up from the crowd. In that instant, in too short a time, one would have thought, even for the bullet to get there, a mysterious, terrible change had come over the elephant. He neither stirred nor fell, but every line of his body had altered. He looked suddenly stricken, shrunken, immensely old, as though the frightful impact of the bullet had paralysed him without knocking him down. At last, after what seemed a long time – it might have been five seconds, I dare say – he sagged flabbily to his knees. His mouth slobbered. An enormous senility seemed to have settled upon him. One could have imagined him thousands of years old. I fired again into the same spot. At the second shot he did not collapse but climbed with desperate slowness to his feet and stood weakly upright, with legs sagging and head drooping. I fired a third time. That was the shot that did for him. You could see the agony of it jolt his whole body and knock the last remnant of strength from his legs. But in falling he seemed for a moment to rise, for as his hind legs collapsed beneath him he seemed to tower upward like a huge rock toppling, his trunk reaching skyward like a tree. He trumpeted, for the first and only time. And then down he came, his belly towards me, with a crash that seemed to shake the ground even where I lay.”