June 7, 2005

Can anyone explain this

As you've no doubt heard, the Supremes have issued a decision from on high that makes it a federal crime to use medically prescribed marijuana. Now a person in California, for instance, where medical marijuana is legal, who smokes marijuana to aliviate the nausea from chemotherapy or to relieve glaucoma or other conditions can be prosecuted and sentenced to jail even though it's legal in their state.

I can not believe that this has happened. While I can imagine an overly strict interpretation of the law as an argument for this, the fact remains that it's simply dumb, counter-intuitive, and cruel to those who will be forced to either suffer or break the law.

This doesn't even involve the legalization argument. It has nothing to do with whether marijuana is a harmful drug. It only has to do with whether U.S. citizens have the right to avail themselves of it's demonstrated medical benefits.

This is a glaring example of the literally insane attitude in the U.S. about marijuana. We're so incredibly hypocritical and irrational about these types of things. Since there's zero rational reason for this ruling, one can't help but think that it's an alcohol manufacturer's protection measure in disguise. While alcohol is churned out by the millions upon millions of gallons, we still treat marijuana, a relatively benign drug, like it was a menace to society.

It is absolutely stupid. Millions have been smoking pot for decades with no discernable effect on society. Yet the damage wreaked by alcohol goes on unabated.

And this ruling only affects people who have been prescribed marijuana by a doctor!

I can't figure it out. It makes no sense whatsoever.

What possible rational can explain such a ridiculous ruling?

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At 6/07/2005 9:00 AM, Blogger diehard said...

It's the stupidest ruling I have seen from this court. Its easy to beat up on the drug culture.

At 6/07/2005 3:35 PM, Blogger QuadCityImages said...

You know those Republicans, always taking power away from the state and making it a federal decision.... oh wait, that's supposed to be Democrats? The world is turning upside down...

At 6/08/2005 3:53 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Diehard, I'd only add that this really had nothing to do with the "drug culture" per se. It only deals with people who are using marijuana for medical benefit after having been prescribed it by a physician.

Certainly the anti-pot people might think this is the "camel's nose under the tent" thing and feel that denying it's use for pain relief to terminal cancer patients is preferable to the minute chance that if it was allowed to continue, it might eventually lead to de-criminalization. As you said, just plain stupid ... "compassionate conservatism" my ass.

At 6/08/2005 4:23 AM, Blogger Rawk Eyelund said...

I think marijuana should be legal for everyone, sick or not. But the Supreme Court's job isn't to decide if a law is stupid or not. All they can do is decide if it's constitutional and I think they were right this time.

Don't blame the Supremes, blame the spineless politicians who are afraid of losing votes from drunken dolts who'll automatically vote against anyone who is "pro drug abuse."

At 6/08/2005 10:24 AM, Blogger Dissenter said...

I have just read the entire opinion. It is a fascinating exploration of federalism. To understand the opinion, one must understand the Supreme Court's interpretation of the Commerce Clause. The Court was not called upon to address, and did not address, whether the federal government's prohibition against medical marijuana use is right or wrong. In fact, in dicta, the majority suggested that DEA agents in California might have been wiser were they to have not destroyed the marijuana plants of one of the two patients who was a plaintiff in the case.

Rather, the Court was called upon to address this issue: Does the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution empower the federal government to regulate marijuana production which is confined within the State of California, for single-person use within just the State of California, with no aspect of production or sale occurring in interstate commerce?

The Commerce Clause has been a pliable instrument for the Supreme Court over the years. It has interpreted, and in some instances quite strained, to allow or disallow federal regulations to supercede state's rights. At times, we embrace strained interpretations of the commerce clause. For example, the Supreme Court once held that since a restaurant's bricks had been purchased out-of-state, the restaurant was sufficiently within interstate commerce to enable enforcement of federal civil rights laws which conflicted with a southern state's discriminatory laws.

But in this most recent case, Raich vs. Gonzalez, the high court was called upon to determine whether private and limited medical marijuana use in California sufficiently involves interstate, veruss purely intrastate, commerce, such that it can be regulated by the federal government. The Court held that there is such high demand for marijuana in interstate commerce that its lawful private production in an individual state might substantially affect its interstate usage. Consequentially, the Court held, it substantially affects interstate commerce and it therefore falls within the regulatory purview of the federal government. The majority relied almost exclusively on a 1942 decision known as Wickard vs. Filburn, wherein the Court had held that a private wheat farmer who produced wheat for his own private consumption in a single state could nevertheless be regulated by the federal government, since wheat production in any amount might substantially affect interstate commerce in wheat production (e.g., the farmer producing wheat for himself reduces his reliance on other wheat producers and therefore affects wheat producers as a whole).

I have read the other opinions on this blog, and I would note that those who oppose so strongly the conclusion which the court drew are in the company of the opinion's dissenters, Chief Justice Rehnquist, Clarence Thomas, and Sandra Day O'Connor. Why are the liberals on the side of the Court's conservatives in this case? Because the case ultimately had nothing to do with whether a glaucoma patient should be allowed to smoke marijuana, and everything to do with an exploration of the power of the federal government versus the sovereignty of the state government.

At 6/08/2005 5:14 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Thanks so much Dissenter, for your usual cogent analysis and explanation.

I assumed the ruling was based on a legal concept and not on the question of the desirability of medicianal pot or whether the practice should be banned based on it's status as an otherwise illegal drug.

Thanks for spelling out the issue at hand. I was aware that the conservatives on the court were actually "dissenters"... much like yourself.

And I think we should all mail Clarance Thomas a cookie for actually casting a vote that differed from Scalia! Amazing.

People have noted that the dissenting justices aside from Thomas have all dealt with or are currently dealing with cancer, and therefore the thinking is that they were more sympathetic to medicianal marijuana users. Thomas, it's said, was a King Kong mea-mea pot user in college and this informed his opinion.

Neither of those things likely played any role in their decisions, but it's interesting to note.


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