Ann Arbor Area Community News
The US Supreme Court yesterday upheld the constitutionality of using the Controlled Substances Act to seize medical marijuana, even if it were grown and used locally. The case, Gonzalez v. Raich was an appeal from a circuit court ruling that had held the CSA had no validity if the marijuana was not part of “interstate commerce”.
The ruling does not strike down any of the state laws in existance legalizing medical marijuana – the CSA was in question, not the state laws – and California and other states have declared their intent to continue not prosecuting medical marijuana users. Win the War, the group raffling a pound of pot as part of a legalization campaign in Michigan, has not yet responded to a request for comment on what effect this would have on their efforts.
Some interesting quotes from the Court’s opinions – this seems to have been a more heated issue than some of the (primarily land use oriented) cases I’ve read:
Justice Stevens, writing for the majority, sounds as if he’s unhappy with the choice presented,
The case is made difficult by respondentsâ€™ strong arguments that they will suffer irreparable harm because, despite a congressional finding to the contrary, marijuana does have valid therapeutic purposes. The question before us, however, is not whether it is wise to enforce the statute in these circumstances; rather, it is whether Congress’ power to regulate interstate markets for medicinal substances encompasses the portions of those markets that are supplied with drugs produced and consumed locally. Well-settled law controls our answer. The CSA is a valid exercise of federal power, even as applied to the troubling facts of this case.
but sticks with precedent, a 1942 case regarding wheat farming, that stated wholly intrastate sales of wheat to be part of interstate commerce by merit of being part of the same market for wheat. Personal and local growth and medical use of marijuana, similarly, is part of the same pot market as all the rest of the pot out there. Stevens states that there is a “rational basis” for holding local pot sales to have an impact on interstate pot sales, due to the general difficulty of drawing bright lines between one and the other.
Justice Scalia writes a concurring opinion that goes several steps more extreme. Not only may Congress regulate interstate commerce and intrastate commerce that might rationally be considered to possible have a substantial impact on interstate commerce, as Stevens was dealing with, but,
Where necessary to make a regulation of interstate commerce effective, Congress may regulate even those intrastate activities that do not themselves substantially affect interstate commerce.
Justice O’Conner writes the dissenting opinion, playing the calm states’ rights advocate:
We enforce the “outer limits” of Congress’ Commerce Clause authority not for their own sake, but to protect historic spheres of state sovereignty from excessive federal encroachment and thereby to maintain the distribution of power fundamental to our federalist system of government . . . One of federalismâ€™s chief virtues, of course, is that it promotes innovation by allowing for the possibility that “a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.”
And, on the fourth hand, Justice Thomas blasts the majority:
By holding that Congress may regulate activity that is neither interstate nor commerce under the Interstate Commerce Clause, the Court abandons any attempt to enforce the Constitutionâ€™s limits on federal power. The majority supports this conclusion by invoking, without explanation, the Necessary and Proper Clause. Regulating respondentsâ€™ conduct, however, is not “necessary and proper for carrying into Execution” Congress’ restrictions on the interstate drug trade.
Any actual lawyers reading this should feel free to correct my impressions of the important points.
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