States' Rights Still in Limbo

States' Rights Still in Limbo
Posted by CN Staff on March 27, 2009 at 19:24:27 PT
By Thomas D. Elias
Source: Colusa County Sun-Herald
California -- There was a time when the term “states’ rights” stood for trampling on the rights of individuals. Many states asserted during the civil rights era that they had the right to prevent some citizens from voting, eating in the restaurants of their choice, drinking from public water fountains or sitting where they pleased on buses and trains.But issues of states’ rights were essentially turned on their head by a U.S. Supreme Court bent on restricting some items (like medical marijuana, approved in 1996 by California voters) and by the former George W. Bush administration, which was willing to claim almost anything to further its agenda of favoring big business over consumers and the environment.
That began to change after Barack Obama became the 44th president. For one thing, despite a few raids early in Obama’s term, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has now made it clear he will no longer prosecute medical marijuana dispensaries abiding by California law.But other signals indicate the Supreme Court remains a states’ rights opponent.The most prominent of those came in a decision involving the U.S. Navy and the dolphins and gray whales that migrate annually along the California coast. The Navy and the marine mammals generally coexist happily, but not in the strait between San Clemente and the Santa Catalina islands.The Navy uses that strait to practice submarine detection because it boasts currents and other conditions similar to those in the Strait of Hormuz, the strategic entrance to the Persian Gulf. Trouble is, environmental groups say naval sonar has killed and injured whales and dolphins by interfering with their own sonar-like communications.The state Coastal Commission and several wildlife groups sued last year to prevent the Navy from conducting exercises in the strait when marine mammals are near. U.S. District Judge Florence Marie Cooper ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, instructing the Navy to shut down its sonar when within 2,200 yards of whales or dolphins.The Navy appealed immediately to then-President Bush, who responded with the first and so far only presidential order exempting military maneuvers from environmental rules. The Natural Resources Defense Council and others took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which held by a one-vote margin that the Navy can do as it likes.The ruling implies that even with Bush long gone, and with Obama reversing or about to overturn several Bush stances – including his refusal to allow California to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from cars and trucks – the states’ rights battle will continue.The biggest change so far is Holder’s indication that the long federal campaign to harass or shut down medical marijuana clinics and cooperatives in California is over. A profusion of clinics sprang up after passage of Proposition 215, which allows use of medipot with a doctor’s recommendation. Now, Holder says only those suspected of wrongdoing will be prosecuted.Under both Bush and his Democratic predecessor, Bill Clinton, raids on clinics were frequent. The justification was that federal law banning marijuana use takes precedence over state law – even though more than a dozen states legalized medipot after California did.Despite Obama’s hands-off policy, the majority of the U.S. Supreme Court remains opposed to state’s rights. For as long as that majority survives, one principle long upheld by California’s highest court will be in jeopardy: That while states may not grant their citizens fewer rights than guaranteed under the federal Constitution, they can grant more rights.That was the principle at work last spring when the state Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, a decision voters reversed months later via Proposition 8. It’s a principle that has furthered the fight against smog, legalized abortion in California long before Roe v. Wade and helped equalize revenue among school districts, among many important steps.Bush eroded that principle, with consistent backing by the federal justices. Obama has not yet shown he can reverse the tide.Note: Obama reverses Bush actions but can't overturn Supreme Court.Source: Colusa County Sun-Herald (CA)Author: Thomas D. EliasPublished: Friday, March 27 2009Copyright: 2009 Freedom CommunicationsContact: tdelias aol.comURL: Medical Marijuana Archives
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on March 28, 2009 at 07:25:23 PT
Americans Reject Legalizing, Taxing Marijuana
March 28, 2009Poll Results:
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