Will Congress Have The Guts To Tackle MMJ?

Will Congress Have The Guts To Tackle MMJ?
Posted by CN Staff on June 08, 2005 at 09:18:34 PT
By Clarence Page
Source: Chicago Tribune
Washington, D.C. -- "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone in Lewis Carroll's "Through the Looking Glass," "it means just what I choose it to mean--neither more nor less.'" The same might be said by U.S. Supreme Court justices.Take, for example, Gonzales vs. Raich, the high court's medicinal marijuana case.
The commerce clause in Article 1 of the Constitution could hardly be more clear in limiting federal power to commerce "among the several states," not within a state.But in Gonzales vs. Raich, a 6-3 majority has stretched "commerce" to mean just what they choose it to mean--far enough to let the distant feds, not the close-to-the-people state governments, decide whether ailing residents should be allowed to grow their own medicine under a doctor's care.In the Senate's heated debate over judicial appointments we have constantly heard conservatives argue that judges should lean toward a modest role for the national government. Over the past decade, a conservative Supreme Court coalition under Chief Justice William Rehnquist has rolled back congressional power and elevated "states' rights" in a series of decisions. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court reasserted federal authority in Gonzales vs. Raich on Monday, even in the 11 states that now permit marijuana when recommended by a doctor.The people in those 11 states have spoken, and the Supreme Court has told them to shut up.Justice John Paul Stevens' majority opinion stretched the meaning of "commerce" to include anything done in one state that could have "a substantial effect on interstate commerce." And how does the court define "substantial"? Broadly enough to cover just about anything."... Production of the commodity meant for home consumption, be it wheat or marijuana, has a substantial effect on supply and demand in the national market for that commodity," Stevens wrote.Justice Antonin Scalia, the archest of the high court's arch-conservatives, chimed in, if only to say that Stevens' federal "intrusionism" did not go far enough. "Drugs like marijuana are fungible commodities"; even when "grown at home and possessed for personal use," it is "never more than an instant from the interstate market."Both opinions sound more like economic theory than day-to-day reality. After all, the medical marijuana market is only a tiny fraction of a state's overall drug traffic.That very rational point, among others, was made by Justice Clarence Thomas, who cut himself loose from his usual tether to Scalia's world view to raise a clear, compelling and badly needed voice of reason: If the two California women who are the defendants in this case are involved in "interstate commerce," he asked, what in these United States is not "interstate commerce"?"Respondents Diane Monson and Angel Raich use marijuana that has never been bought or sold, that has never crossed state lines, and that has had no demonstrable effect on the national market for marijuana," Thomas wrote. "If Congress can regulate this under the commerce clause, then it can regulate virtually anything--and the federal government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers."In other words, keep your federal hands out of matters that pertain only to a particular state and do not infringe on fundamental human rights.That human-rights point is particularly significant to those African-Americans who are old enough to remember when "states' rights" was offered as a lame excuse to perpetuate racial segregation laws in the South. The 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision properly overruled states' rights that violate fundamental human rights. By contrast, Gonzales vs. Raich ironically overrules states' rights in order to violate a humane right, the right of the sick to treat their own illness. "Our federalist system, properly understood, allows California and a growing number of other states to decide for themselves how to safeguard the health and welfare of their citizens," Thomas writes. Right on.The good news in Gonzales vs. Raich is that the high court did not overturn any of the existing state medicinal marijuana laws. Stevens' decision also ruled in defiance of Congress and John P. Walters, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, that marijuana does indeed have "therapeutic value." Stevens suggested that the executive branch might reclassify marijuana for medical purposes or that Congress might allow "the laboratory of the states" to decide this matter for themselves.In fact, Congress is considering two bills, backed mostly by Democrats and libertarian-leaning Republicans, that could legalize the medicinal use of marijuana at the federal level.Congress usually kicks such hot-burning issues as marijuana reform over to the courts. This time, the courts have kicked it right back. Congress, as W.C. Fields once said, needs to take the bull by the tail and face the situation. And the public needs to make itself heard.Clarence Page is a member of the Tribune's editorial board. Complete Title: Will Congress Have The Guts To Tackle Medical Marijuana?Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)Author: Clarence PagePublished: June 8, 2005Copyright: 2005 Chicago Tribune CompanyContact: ctc-TribLetter Tribune.comWebsite: Related Articles & Web Site:Angel Raich v. Ashcroft News Tough With The Terminally Ill Label-Defying Ruling The Grip of Reefer Madness 
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Comment #6 posted by FoM on June 08, 2005 at 15:25:51 PT
This whole thing has become personal to me. I can really relate.
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Comment #5 posted by BGreen on June 08, 2005 at 15:17:02 PT
This is the largest paper in my area
Thanks, FoM. This means something personally.The Reverend Bud Green
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on June 08, 2005 at 15:06:37 PT
Thanks for the poll. I voted. If you or anyone finds a poll please post it. We need to vote and read and do what we can and polls are something everyone should take part in I believe.
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Comment #3 posted by BGreen on June 08, 2005 at 15:03:51 PT
Do you think that patients who use marijuana as a prescribed medical treatment should be prosecuted?Yes: 16.8%No: 83.2%Total Votes: 738
Springfield (MO) News-Leader Poll
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Comment #2 posted by Toker00 on June 08, 2005 at 14:28:47 PT
I agree Kap. But I don't think we should just push MMJ. We should declare the DEA and FDA and particularly JOHN PEE WALTERS criminals guilty of racism and ignorance in supporting the ban on Cannabis. Cannabis should be legalized, taxed and regulated just like alcohol, taken off the black market so the "children" won't be tempted with the really dangerous drugs when they just seek cannabis. I fail to see why anyone cannot understand this. They understood it with alcohol, and didn't pull this "commerce" BS to keep alcohol banned, now did they?I put flyers out today at the educational institution I work at, with a link to cannabisnews exclusively, because in my opinion, this is the most adult and mature posters site I have seen on the net. Nowhere else have I found such a wide range of information about cannabis. Nowhere else have I found more intelligent posters and truly carring individuals for not only cannabis, but our country,and each other as well. We are the true Americans. It's just a feeling I have about this site.I'm so damn fired up about this. I intend to do everything I only thought about doing before. I intend to take it to the limit including risking arrest to get the point across that PROHIBITION doesn't work for alcohol OR cannabis. We have to recruit protestors and actually get off our asses and MARCH!!! Protest Cannabis Prohibition from the rooftops non-stop. I cannot let the sick fight for me anymore. I refuse to use the MMJ excuse anymore.NO PEACE TILL CANNABIS PROHIBITION IS REPEALED!!! 
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Comment #1 posted by kaptinemo on June 08, 2005 at 11:30:26 PT:
The VERY LAST 'hurrah'
The ever cogent Mr. Page has struck the nail squarely on the head once more."...the public needs to make itself heard."It doesn't get any clearer: he means you and me. If these bills don't pass, the very last path to reform, will be closed. This isn't alarmism. It's not 'chicken little'. I don't get my jollies by scaring people or playing pranks. I'm deadly serious.During the last election, I spoke of a window of opportunity. A 2 year window of opportunity to actually affect real change before the election system itself is so suborned we are trapped within what I call the Fundie New Jerusalem/Hell on Earth that many of our leaders are lusting for. That window of opportunity has closed about a third of the way. But there's still time!Get on the horn, or go to sites like MPP's and send those letters to your Congresscritters and Sin-a-tors and let them hear our roar. The antis may have the money, but we have vastly greater numbers.Visit them! Inundate their phone banks! Flood their faxes! Don't let up! Yes, I said YOU. I am especially addressing all those cannabists who are only too happy to let someone else do the work. Lazy a**ed (long string of polysyllabic unprintables) who make lots of noise at rallies but sit at home, sweating in fear in your closet as you light up. Here's your chance. Because, in the end, if we don't make the effort...we'll DESERVE what comes next. 
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