The Supreme Court today ruled against the use of medical marijuana even within a states borders as a commerce clause issue. How they could see that this would touch interstate commerce is amazing to me, but todays Court is has kept up the tradition of the powerful federalist bent on the court. The media had a hard time figuring out the fact that he conservative judges were the ones voting against this measure, and the liberal justices wanting to increase the power of the federal government over states and individuals rights.
Here is the round up:
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Federal authorities may prosecute sick people whose doctors prescribe marijuana to ease pain, the Supreme Court ruled Monday, concluding that state laws don’t protect users from a federal ban on the drug.
The decision is a stinging defeat for marijuana advocates who had successfully pushed 10 states to allow the drug’s use to treat various illnesses.
Justice John Paul Stevens writing the 6-3 decision, said that Congress could change the law to allow medical use of marijuana.
The closely watched case was an appeal by the Bush administration in a case involving two seriously ill California women who use marijuana. The court said the prosecution of pot users under the federal Controlled Substances Act was constitutional.
“I’m going to have to be prepared to be arrested,” said Diane Monson, one of the women involved in the case.
Stevens said the court was not passing judgment on the potential medical benefits of marijuana, and he noted “the troubling facts” in the case. Monson’s backyard crop of six marijuana plants was seized by federal agents in 2002, although the California law was on Monson’s side.
Nonetheless, the ruling does not strike down laws in California and several other states allowing medicinal use of marijuana. The court was not asked to declare such statutes illegal.
It means, however, that such laws will not protect anyone from federal prosecution should a U.S. attorney or the Department of Justice bring charges or order raids to stop the practice.
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who dissented today, saw the decision as effectively “extinguishing” experiments with medical marijuana laws.
Supporters of medicinal marijuana laws, on the other hand, said they believed that most individuals being treated with marijuana under state laws would be untouched by the ruling.
Daniel Abrahamson, of the Drug Policy Alliance, said that “it will take time for the dust to settle” but that when it does, things will be roughly the same, “an uneasy status quo. . . . States will be able to pass protections for marijuana patients and the federal government will remain free to go after them or not . . . “
Making an exception for patients, liberal Justice David Souter said in November, could open the door to widespread marijuana use and to fraudulent claims of illness by recreational pot smokers in California and the 10 other states that allow medical marijuana.
Justice Stephen Breyer, another liberal, said advocates for medical marijuana should first ask the federal Food and Drug Administration to reclassify pot as having a medical use. The U.S. government considers marijuana to be an intoxicant with no medicinal value. Citing California voters’ approval of medical marijuana in 1996, Breyer said, “Medicine by regulation is better than medicine by referendum.”
The case was brought by Angel Raich and Diane Monson, critically ill Californians seeking to use marijuana under state law without facing federal prosecution. In court briefs, the women argued that marijuana provides relief for symptoms of an inoperable brain tumor, scoliosis and other maladies for which conventional medicine is of little or no help.
The women won an injunction from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit that blocks the U.S. government from arresting them or seizing their marijuana plants. But the government, which has made opposing medical marijuana part of its war on drugs since the Clinton administration, appealed to the Supreme Court.
The decision means that federal anti-drug laws trump state laws that allow the use of medical marijuana, said CNN Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin. Ten states have such laws.
“If medical marijuana advocates want to get their views successfully presented, they have to go to Congress; they can’t go to the states, because it’s really the federal government that’s in charge here,” Toobin said.
At issue was the power of federal government to override state laws on use of “patient pot.”
The Controlled Substances Act prevents the cultivation and possession of marijuana, even by people who claim personal “medicinal” use. The government argues its overall anti-drug campaign would be undermined by even limited patient exceptions.
California’s Compassionate Use Act permits patients with a doctor’s approval to grow, smoke or acquire the drug for “medical needs.”
Users include television host Montel Williams, who uses it to ease pain from multiple sclerosis.
Anti-drug activists say Monday’s ruling could encourage abuse of drugs deemed by the government to be narcotics.
“It’s a handful of people who want to see not just marijuana, but all drugs legalized,” said Calvina Fay of the Drug Free America Foundation.
In its hard-line stance in opposition to medical marijuana, the federal government invoked a larger issue. “The trafficking of drugs finances the work of terror, sustaining terrorists,” said President Bush in December 2001. Tough enforcement, the government told the justices, “is central to combating illegal drug possession.”
Marijuana users, in their defense, argued, “Since September 11, 2001, Defendants [DEA] have terrorized more than 35 Californians because of medical cannabis.” In that state, the issue has become a hot political issue this election year.