When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

06 June 2005

The Supremes smack down medical marijuana

By now, you've all heard the news... the Supreme Court has ruled in Gonzales (formerly Ashcroft) v. Raich, and the news is not at all good for medical marijuana supporters.

Essentially, the Supremes have overturned the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision from 2003, and have "[upheld] the power of Congress to prohibit and prosecute the possession and use of marijuana for medical purposes, even in the 11 states that permit it" (New York Times, June 6, 2005.)

The decision overturned a 2003 ruling by a federal appeals court that had shielded California's Compassionate Use Act, the medical-marijuana initiative adopted by the state's voters nine years ago, from the reach of federal drug enforcement. The appeals court had held that Congress lacked constitutional authority to regulate the noncommercial cultivation and use of marijuana that does not cross state lines.

But "the regulation is squarely within Congress's commerce power," Justice John Paul Stevens said for the majority today. He added that the court's precedents had clearly established "Congress's power to regulate purely local activities that are part of an economic 'class of activities' that have a substantial effect on interstate commerce."

The decision, Gonzales v. Raich, No. 03-1454, was not necessarily the last word on medical marijuana, either from the courts or from other branches of government. Under the terms of the opinion, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, will now consider other challenges to the application of federal drug law, including an argument made by the two patients who brought the case that depriving them of what they say is the only drug that eases their suffering from a variety of painful conditions amounts to a violation of their constitutional right to due process.

Full text of the Times article here.

Full text of the Supreme Court decision here (Findlaw)

Now, here's an interesting development. Guess who turned out to be the only principled, hard-core federalist on the high court?

That's right... this guy.

Justices Rehnquist and O'Connor were also disturbed by this blatant abuse of the Commerce Clause and dissented in part, along with Thomas, but only Justice Thomas laid it out in the clearest of terms, in a separate dissent:
Respondents Diane Monson and Angel Raich use marijuana that has never been bought or sold, that has never crossed state lines, and that has had no demonstrable effect on the national market for marijuana. If Congress can regulate this under the Commerce Clause, then it can regulate virtually anything--and the Federal Government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers.
Amen, and that is clearly just exactly where we're at. So much for the "federalism revolution" in the judiciary.

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