My last post made me curious and I did some additional research. Apparently the very Constitutionality question that I asked pertaining to marijuana was brought before the United States Supreme Court on November 29, 2004 in Gonzales v. Raich. The case involved a woman using medicinal marijuana to treat chronic pain and muscle spasms around her spine. The decision was 6-3, written by Justice Stevens and issued June 6, 2005.
It upheld the validity of Controlled Substances Act as an exercise of federal power because Congress “could have rationally concluded that the aggregate impact on the national market of all the transactions exempted from federal supervision is unquestionably substantial.” The majority did not address the substantive due process claims raised by the respondents. (Wikipedia)
They used a rather strange precedent based on the third part of the Commerce Clause which states that Congress has the power to regulate activities that substantially affect interstate commerce. The precedent was Wickard v. Filburn (1942), where:
During the American Great Depression, the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938 imposed quotas on crops including wheat. The farmer Roscoe Filburn produced wheat in excess of the quota, but said the excess wheat was for his own personal consumption and therefore had no effect on interstate commerce. The Court ruled that a farmer’s growing “his own wheat” is “commerce” because if he had not grown and consumed it, he would have had to buy it from someone. Hence, in the aggregate, if farmers were allowed to consume their own wheat it would affect the interstate market in wheat. (Wikipedia)
Thus, under this the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Congress’s power to regulate marijuana as interstate commerce. The three dissenting judges were Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Justice William Rehnquist, and Justice Clarence Thomas. I will leave you today with a few excerpts from the dissenting opinions.
“Federalism promotes innovation by allowing for the possibility that “a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country…”
“Relying on Congress’ abstract assertions, the Court has endorsed making it a federal crime to grow small amounts of marijuana in one’s own home for one’s own medicinal use. This overreaching stifles an express choice by some States, concerned for the lives and liberties of their people, to regulate medical marijuana differently. If I were a California citizen, I would not have voted for the medical marijuana ballot initiative; if I were a California legislator I would not have supported the Compassionate Use Act. But whatever the wisdom of California’s experiment with medical marijuana, the federalism principles that have driven our Commerce Clause cases require that room for experiment be protected in this case.”
Justice Thomas also wrote a separate dissent, stating in part:
“Respondent’s local cultivation and consumption of marijuana is not “Commerce … among the several States.”
Certainly no evidence from the founding suggests that “commerce” included the mere possession of a good or some personal activity that did not involve trade or exchange for value. In the early days of the Republic, it would have been unthinkable that Congress could prohibit the local cultivation, possession, and consumption of marijuana.”
”If the majority is to be taken seriously, the Federal Government may now regulate quilting bees, clothes drives, and potluck suppers throughout the 50 States. This makes a mockery of Madison’s assurance to the people of New York that the “powers delegated” to the Federal Government are “few and defined”, while those of the States are “numerous and indefinite.””
Gonzales v. Raich Opinions: http://wid.ap.org/scotus/pdf/03-1454P.ZD.pdf