Federal Law Trumps State Approval of Pot

Federal Law Trumps State Approval of Pot
Posted by CN Staff on June 06, 2005 at 20:04:12 PT
By David G. Savage, Times Staff Writer
Source: Los Angeles Times
Washington, D.C. -- The Supreme Court on Monday upheld the federal government's power to seize and destroy marijuana that is used as medicine by seriously ill patients, ruling that strict federal drug laws trump California's liberalized policy on pot.The Constitution makes the laws of the United States the "supreme law of the land," and "if there is any conflict between federal and state law, federal law shall prevail," Justice John Paul Stevens said for the court. It is up to Congress, he said, to change the law.
The 6-3 decision did not seek to resolve the dispute over whether marijuana may be good medicine. Instead, the justices focused on whether the federal government could enforce its zero-tolerance policy on marijuana in the 10 states -- most of them in the West -- where voters or lawmakers have opted to legalize marijuana used for medical purposes.The court's leading liberals sided with the Bush administration and its federal drug enforcers, while three of its more conservative members, including Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, joined the side of the California marijuana users to limit the federal authority.The decision weakens, but does not overturn, state laws that permit seriously ill people to use marijuana to relieve pain or nausea.Federal drug agents, prosecutors and judges may arrest, try and punish those who grow or use marijuana, the high court said, even in states that have laws legalizing it.However, state and local police need not assist in those efforts. And since most law enforcement is carried out by state and local officials, the liberalized medical marijuana laws should continue to have practical significance.California Attorney General Bill Lockyer said the ruling "shows the vast philosophical difference between the federal government and Californians on the rights of patients. ... Taking medicine on the recommendation of a doctor for a legitimate illness should not be a crime," he said.Federal law-enforcement officials sought to dispel the idea that drug agents would be unleashed on marijuana-using patients in California and other states."The vast majority of our cases are against those involved in trafficking, and major cultivation and distribution," Karen P. Tandy, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said Monday. "I don't see any significant changes in DEA enforcement strategies after today's decision. We don't target sick and dying people."Snipped:Complete Article: Los Angeles Times (CA) Author: David G. Savage, Times Staff WriterPublished: June 6, 2005Copyright: 2005 Los Angeles TimesContact: letters latimes.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:Angel Raich v. Ashcroft News of MMJ Says She'll Continue To Fight Court Marijuana Ruling Raises Questions Sick Pot Smokers Can Be Prosecuted
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on June 09, 2005 at 13:21:36 PT
Published Letters To The Editor from The LA Times
Major Buzz Over Marijuana RulingJune 9, 2005Re "Justices Rule U.S. Can Ban Medical Pot," June 7: Is that why they call it the high court?Daniel WaldmanSanta Barbara*One perverse result of the medical marijuana case: In eviscerating any meaningful check on Congress' power to intrude on the most noncommercial and private of individual activities under the guise of "regulating interstate commerce," the court undermines the avowed principal goal of the federal drug control legislation it cites. The court says the goal of the 1970 Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act, as applied to marijuana, is to prohibit and eliminate interstate commerce in marijuana. But by ruling that the act properly prohibits purely private, noncommercial cultivation and personal use of small quantities of marijuana for medical purposes, in compliance with state law and under the recommendation of a doctor, the Supreme Court in effect sends those sick patients into the illicit market. The more patients in the illicit market, the more aggregate demand, the higher the prices, the higher the profits, and the more supply is needed.By ruling in line with reason and precedent that the activities of brain tumor patient Angel Raich were indeed beyond the purview of federal commerce authority, the Supreme Court ironically could have helped reduce demand in the illicit interstate market in marijuana, thus accomplishing something that federal drug policy has yet to achieve in any meaningful way.Jeff FurchtenichtAttorney, Santa Maria*So now the Supreme Court has ruled against the medical use of marijuana. What's next  morphine? Gary W. ThomasSan Diego*Our Extreme Court has done it again. Now it has ruled against the use of medical marijuana, even for cancer patients. Yes, it shows a lack of compassion for our sick  but not for the administration's big pharmaceutical donors. After all, how much obscene profit can they make from plants growing free on someone's back porch? Bonnie Compton HansonSanta Ana*Re "Unconstitutional Cannabis," editorial, June 7: The medicinal use of marijuana benefits cancer patients by stimulating the appetite, suppressing nausea and relieving pain. To deny this to terminally ill patients causes needless suffering. Californians were justified in passing legislation to provide marijuana to such patients under the constitutional delegation of health, safety and welfare to the states.I commend readers to the thoughtful dissents of Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and Clarence Thomas, who correctly identify that the medicinal private use of homegrown marijuana does not affect interstate commerce.Unbounded federal regulation under an unlimited "commerce clause" analysis can be used to regulate such things as "quilting bees  and potluck suppers," as Thomas wrote, and constitutes an unrestrained and unconstitutional federal police power. The Times' opinion that the ruling is justified because the commerce clause analysis has been used to prevent Southern racial segregation is off the mark as such segregation clearly does affect interstate commerce. Douglas Malcolm MD, JDShell Beach, Calif.
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Comment #1 posted by The GCW on June 06, 2005 at 20:58:32 PT
Vote here Should the federal government prosecute medical marijuana users, now that it has been given the OK by the Supreme Court? * 69575 responses Yes 
10% No 
88% I'm not sure 
2%&&&&LOU DOBBS TONIGHT QUICKVOTE Do you believe the federal government should prosecute doctors who prescribe medical marijuana? Current Results: Yes -- 7% No -- 93% Total: 3264 votes
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