Transcript: Supreme Court: Medical Marijuana

Transcript: Supreme Court: Medical Marijuana
Posted by CN Staff on June 07, 2005 at 15:17:04 PT
By Charles Lane, WP Supreme Court Reporter
Source: Washington Post
Washington, D.C. -- In a 6-3 decision Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that federal officials have the authority to prosecute those who use marijuana for medical purposes. This includes those who reside in states that permit it, creating an unclear guideline in which the laws themselves remain untouched but those who practice medical marijuana use are not shielded by the state. What practical effect will this have on medical marijuana use? What is the next step in the battle over this controversial practice?
Washington Post Supreme Court reporter Charles Lane was online to discuss the Court's controversial decision.A transcript follows._______________________Arlington, Va.: It seems to me that Justice Scalia has it right here. If Congress can comprehensively regulate the national market for marijuana, then its regulation may also extend to the intrastate periphery of the market. The people who quarrel with that extension (like the dissenters) are essentially asking the Court to substitute its judgment for Congress's. That is, they want the Court to say that enforcement of the CSA against intrastate production/use of marijuana isn't "necessary" to the statutory scheme. Wouldn't that be the kind of judicial activism and policy judgment that Rehnquist and Thomas normally decry?Charles Lane: That's a better formulation of what I was struggling to say to another question above._______________________Arlington, Va.: How could Scalia have voted in the majority on this? The interstate commerce argument is bogus. This is another example of why we need real conservatives on the court who believe in the constitution, the peoples and the states rights and not legislating from the bench!Charles Lane: Was it legislating from the bench, or deferring to an act of federal legislation, the Controlled Substances Act? You be the judge!_______________________Arlington, Va.: I was quite disappointed with Justice Scalia's concurring opinion (while quite pleased with Justice Thomas' dissent). Do you agree that he tends to abandon his self-proclaimed original philosophy when it conflicts with his notion of (political/moral) right and wrong?Charles Lane: I don't think this case poses an originalism problem for him, since his opinion made an argument about the meaning of the "necessary and proper" clause of the Constitution. The real issue here is whether he was sticking to principle on federalism, in the sense of states' rights, which he previously supported. I suppose he would say that his view of federalism has always included a large exception for "necessary and proper" interstate commerce regulations, and that it was applicable in this case._______________________College Park, Md.: What provision of the constitution did the Congress use to make marijuana illegal? Is it interstate commerce or the power to tax? If it's the power to tax then there's nothing the states can do because they need the federal tax stamp. However, if it's interstate commerce, then how can this even be a federal issue if the marijuana was grown, harvested and used within the state boundaries?Charles Lane: The Congress invoked the Commerce Clause. The court reasoned that even local grown and used pot has a knock-on effect on the overall drug market, licit and illicit._______________________Annapolis, Md.: Where does this case leave states' rights?Here you had a product that was manufactured in the state, and in one of the cases, without charge to the consumer, was used for personal consumption only, and did not have any likelihood of entering the stream of interstate commerce.It appears that the Supremes can always create a link to how something effects commerce and federal safety. The links, however, keep growing more and more tenuous.Charles Lane: I think it clearly means the states cannot legislate as they please in the area of controlled substances. But remember, there is a reason we have federal authority in the area of drugs and medicines. It wasn't so long ago that people were selling snake oil remedies with no federal oversight. I think that was a concern of some members of the court -- that California was, in effect, asking to opt out of a national health and safety regulation scheme._______________________Washington, D.C.: I am really disappointed in Justice Scalia and Kennedy abandoning(even if Scalia wont admit it) their federalist reasoning in this case. Why do you think the liberals on the court prevailed?Charles Lane: I think they prevailed because the court's majority was very wary of unraveling federal authority over the regulation of drugs and medicines. Ask yourselves the question: if a state wanted to make it legal to prescribe Laetrile or some other substance that could be grown at home as a remedy for cancer, should the federal government have a say in that?_______________________Indianapolis, Ind.: Marijuana is everywhere. Here in the "heartland" where I live, its typically grown in the middle of the corn fields. So I don't understand the importance of this decision from the courts. For the most part, citizens who smoke it but don't break any other laws or call attention to themselves will simply NEVER be caught. In my opinion the fuss about this decision ignores reality. What's your opinion?Charles Lane: The significance is the blow it strikes to medical marijuana legislation. Now no state can assure its citizens 100 percent immunity from prosecution/confiscation if they use medical marijuana. That blows a big hole in the entire medical marijuana idea, which depends on physicians being able to "prescribe" something that would be in steady, legal supply._______________________Los Angeles, Calif.: A law is not a law unless you can enforce it. The Supreme Court and local courts can pass as much legislation as they want against using drugs. It does not make a difference as long as I can buy marijuana on the streets.Charles Lane: You're probably right about that._______________________Falls Church, Va.: I think that was a concern of some members of the court -- that the California was, in effect, asking to opt out of a national health and safety regulation scheme.Please explain why tobacco is legal?Charles Lane: You tell me. I'm just trying to explain what the court might have been thinking about this case._______________________London, Ontario: The real shocker in the court decision was Judge Antonin Scalia's enthusiastic support for a clearly Federalist position. Does this sound the death knell for states' rights?Charles Lane: No. Actually, the high water mark of the court's pro-states' rights jurisprudence was probably passed a couple of terms ago when they upheld the Family and Medical Leave Act as applied to the states._______________________Austin, Tex.: From Associated Press Q and A:Q: Can doctors be prosecuted or sanctioned for recommending marijuana?A: No. In October, 2003, the Supreme Court refused to let the federal government punish doctors for recommending pot to their ill patients in states with medical marijuana laws. The justices declined without comment to review a lower-court ruling that said doctors should be able to speak frankly with their patients.So, the feds can go after the patient. But there is no punishment for the physician??Charles Lane: That's correct. Though the physician's prescription is now a somewhat less meaningful exercise given that it would put the patient in legal jeopardy to try to fill it._______________________Odenton, Md.: If the Supreme Court used the knock back effect of free pot for medicinal uses on the black market as justification, does anybody find it ironic that the federal government just artificially inflated the price for pot, thereby increasing the number of people willing to risk punishment (upping supply)? After all, it appears the demand is rather static regardless of price. The sick will certainly still take it if it is the only thing that works for them.The irony is kind of thick...a war on drugs where we push the profit margins for drug dealers up, all in the name of getting rid of drug dealers.Charles Lane: The court was quite clear in explaining that the fact that Congress has the authority to make this law doesn't necessarily prove that it is a good law._______________________Washington, D.C.: I'm new to this topic. The following statement by blogger Andrew Sullivan intrigues me:"If the feds can forbid someone who grows pot in his own garden, sells none of it, uses it for his own medical use and is allowed to by his own state, it's still covered by the Interstate commerce exemption."If that is an accurate reading of the situation, how in the world can the courts consider this an interstate commerce situation with a straight face?Charles Lane: Hmmm... What if it was a state law that said purely intrastate, homemade, for personal use only crystal meth or cocaine, each of which has, I imagine, some plausible medical use. Just asking._______________________Washington, D.C.: What are groups like the Marijuana Policy Project, which funded the case, going to do next? Will they go back to the courts or to Congress?Charles Lane: Both. The Raich case still has a few issues unresolved back in federal court in California. The groups are also pushing legislation in Congress that would bar federal spending on anti-medical marijuana enforcement in the states. But it doesn't have much of a Thank you all for joining us today._______________________Editor's Note: moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.Source: Washington Post (DC)Author: Charles Lane, Washington Post Supreme Court ReporterPublished: Tuesday, June 7, 2005Copyright: 2005 Washington Post Contact: letterstoed washpost.comWebsite: Related Articles & Web Site:Angel Raich v. Ashcroft News High Court Errs of Marijuana Verdict Let Congress Legalize It 
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Comment #1 posted by cloud7 on June 07, 2005 at 17:52:54 PT
Hawaii's U.S. Attorney Says Medical Marijuana 'Finished'
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