Supreme Court Allows Prosecution of Medical Marijuana
The U.S. Supreme Court today upheld, by a 6-3 margin, the power of the federal government to regulate medical marijuana notwithstanding state laws permitting it.
The U.S. Supreme Court Monday ruled doctors can be blocked from prescribing marijuana for patients suffering from pain caused by cancer or other serious illnesses. In a 6-3 vote, the justices ruled the Bush administration can block the backyard cultivation of pot for personal use, because such use has broader social and financial implications. “Congress’ power to regulate purely activities that are part of an economic ‘class of activities’ that have a substantial effect on interstate commerce is firmly established,” wrote Justice John Paul Stevens for the majority. Justices O’Connor, Rehnquist and Thomas dissented. The case took an unusually long time to be resolved, with oral arguments held in November.
The decision means that federal anti-drug laws trump state laws that allow the use of medical marijuana, said CNN Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin. Ten states have such laws. “If medical marijuana advocates want to get their views successfully presented, they have to go to Congress; they can’t go to the states, because it’s really the federal government that’s in charge here,” Toobin said.
While I disagree with the public policy of the federal government here, the Supremes are correct that federal law trumps state law in an area where the feds have jurisdiction. It has been an article of faith for decades that the feds have the power to regulate medicine and drugs as an extension of their jurisdiction over interstate commerce.
Update: Larry Solum links the opinion and has an interesting set of excerpts and analysis.
One has to love the AP’s headline for this, “Court Rules Against Pot for Sick People.” The understanding of the press corps, let alone much of Congress, that the court is not in the business of deciding things like whether sick people should get marijuana is astounding.