Marijuana and States' Rights

Marijuana and States' Rights
Posted by FoM on June 01, 2001 at 14:51:38 PT
By Brian London, Columbia Summer Spectator
Source: Colombia Spectator
So what do medicinal marijuana, 19th century sugar refining, and the 10th Amendment have in common? ''The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.'' The 10th Amendment is a bit of a pest to the left leaning amongst us, as it forbids the feds from doing anything not outlined as a federal duty. It gets in the way of federal gun laws, federal hate crimes legislation, federal most anything. 
The feds are only allowed into certain areas like patents and regulating interstate commerce. Not too long ago was the first Supreme Court case on the issue of medicinal marijuana. When California legalized possession and sale of marijuana under certain circumstances, growers and pot clubs began to spring up throughout the state. Although they were in compliance with California law, these clubs were charged by the justice department with the federal crimes of growing and possession with the intent to sell. The clubs argued medical necessity despite the fact that there is no medical exception to marijuana laws and necessity is usually reserved for more extreme cases. The California pot growers argued that they were growing pot out of necessity, and the Supreme Court didn't buy it.Notice that there no are federal drug possession laws, only laws forbidding growing and trafficking. Selling and farming, as well as trafficking are all part of interstate commerce and the power for congress to enact the Controlled Substances Act come from the power to regulate interstate commerce. The act itself says, ''Traffic in controlled substances flows through interstate and foreign commerce,'' in it's own justification. Likewise there is no federal law declaring the drinking age to be 21-- the government manipulates the states by cutting back on its highway funding if the state doesn't enact its own laws, which, incidentally, is why the roads in Louisiana suck.In the 1890s, the Sherman Act had just been passed and trust busting was the sport of choice amongst politicians. About this time, the last four independent sugar refineries were bought up by a conglomerate and the newly formed monopoly was dragged into court. If you remember your 11th grade history, you remember U.S. v. E.C. Knight. The Supreme Court ruled that farming and processing an agricultural product was an intrastate activity, and the sugar monopoly could not be broken up. Sugar farming could not be considered interstate commerce. Granted the product in question today is a little different, but I submit there is no technical distinction between growing and refining sugar, and growing and refining marijuana. While this decision has been somewhat weakened over the years, it has always been weakened from the standpoint that crops sold on the national market affect interstate commerce. In this case, however, the Controlled Substances Act has effectively precluded any national market. That is, there is no interstate market for the growers in California to effect. If the medicinal marijuana laws in California are structured in such a way as to allow the growing and selling of marijuana in California to be contained entirely within that state, then any federal law which would prohibit those activities is unconstitutional.Am I really suggesting that the government can't outlaw drug possession? Exactly. It is unconstitutional to do so under the 10th Amendment. Why do you think Congress needed to pass an amendment during prohibition? This restriction usually works against more liberal legislative efforts. For example, a federal law prohibiting possessing a handgun within a certain distance of a school was recently overturned on this basis. The situation out West is one in which growers in California grow marijuana for sale in California, so in this case it could have helped them if they had raised it as an issue.Medicinal marijuana and the 10th Amendment make strange bed buddies, but the growers in California had a much stronger case on these grounds. So why didn't they even bring it up? Because, they were fighting a political battle when they should have been fighting a legal one. The growers were trying to convince the Supreme Court that marijuana has medical benefits rather than suggesting that this is a clear case of conflicting state and federal interests, and in this case, the state interests should win out. I guess it is somewhat naive of me to expect a bunch of pot growers from California to begin championing states' rights. However, in not doing so, they have done a major disservice not only to themselves but also to every patient in California who now must buy their medication from a criminal.Source: Columbia Daily Spectator (NY)Author: Brian London, Columbia Summer SpectatorPublished: May 30, 2001Copyright: 2001 The Columbia Daily Spectator, Inc.Contact: spectator columbia.eduWebsite: Versus The US Government Medical Marijuana Archives
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Comment #2 posted by tdm on June 04, 2001 at 07:47:06 PT:
commerce clause intentions
"The feds are only allowed into certain areas like patents and regulating interstate commerce."I know the supreme court has disagreed with me on this one for about 70 years, but the commerce clause was intended solely to prevent the STATES from *interfering* in interstate trade my imposing tariffs on goods from other states. Instead, we have erroneously come to accept that the clause allows the federal government the jurisdiction to *restrict* practically any interstate trade they please. This has allowed the feds to exercise control at gunpoint over everything from selling drugs to being too successful (monopolies).
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Comment #1 posted by Sudaca on June 01, 2001 at 15:52:42 PT
the problem that this argument really would be extensible to the federal governments involvement in all drug posession cases, not just pot. Actually, any drug manufactured , sold, possessed and consumed within a state would have to be out of bounds for the federal government. This would open the door to outright legalization of drugs by any progressive state who had the guts to go that way.I guess the OCBC tried to stay within the reasonable confines of their purpose; to help sick patients who have prescriptions for pot. within the medical MJ movement there are some reluctant to even contemplate recreational pot smoking, let alone legalization of all drugs; I guess they felt that they stood a better chance by appealing to the conservatives compassion (;-) However, it looks like the only viable alternative now is to challenge the legal basis of Controlled Substances Act itself. IMHO this is much better.. 
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