Marijuana and States Rightsposted by Ron Beasley at 11/29/2004 11:51:00 AM
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The central issue is whether Congress had the constitutional power to criminalize the women's activities. When it passed the Controlled Substances Act, Congress relied on the commerce clause of the Constitution, which authorizes it "to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states." In recent years, the Supreme Court has taken a narrow view of what that authorizes Congress to do. It has ruled, in 5-to-4 decisions, that Congress did not have the power to pass the Gun-Free School Zones Act or a key part of the Violence Against Women Act.As a progressive I have supported many of applications of the "commerce clause" by congress in the last 30 years but at the same time I have to question it's legitimacy. The California Medical Marijuana case is a case in point:
The marijuana in this case was far removed from interstate commerce, since it was raised in California for use within the state and was not sold commercially. The Justice Department has argued that allowing Californians to use medical marijuana "seriously undermines Congress's comprehensive scheme for the regulation of dangerous drugs." But when an individual treats herself with marijuana, under the sanction of state law and with a doctor's guidance, the impact on trafficking in dangerous drugs is close to nonexistent.This ruling by the Supreme Court will have implications beyond the case itself as it could determine how much power the Congress has. Progressives have supported the broad use of the "commerce clause" in the past but considering the current climate in Washington we blue staters should probably have mixed feelings.