Reefer madness in the Supreme Court

June 07, 2005

EDITORIAL, Paradise Post (CA)

It appears that at long last, Clarence Thomas, the hitherto relatively silent member of 'The Supremes,' has found his voice. In his separate dissent for the minority in the Supreme Court's recent decision concerning medical marijuana, Thomas argued 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.' Though they had to hold their noses to do so, even the liberals on our editorial board have joined our unanimous decision to side with Thomas. But in doing so, we are on the losing end of the argument.

To be clear, this case has nothing to do with the legitimacy of the use of medical marijuana. One of the justices who joined Thomas in the dissenting opinion, Sandra Day O'Connor, said that if she lived in California she would have voted against the 1996 Compassionate Use Act which made the possession and use of small quantities of marijuana legal with a physician's recommendation. 

Nonetheless, she disagreed that federal legislation against marijuana should necessarily trump California's more lenient laws. And we agree.

Our board is not unanimous on the legitimacy of the use of medical marijuana. While there is abundant anecdotal evidence that it is a highly effective form of medication, we recall the days when many believed in various forms of alcohol for 'medicinal purposes.' Sure, it made people feel better, but does that alone make it a legitimate medication? As long as organizations such as the American Medical Association refuse to endorse the medicinal use of grass, we're not likely to achieve unanimity on this issue.

But as we said above, this recent Supreme Court case was not about pot. The voters of this state have spoken and as far as California is concerned, small quantities are OK to grow, possess and use provided one can get a recommendation from a medical doctor. The problem is that despite similar laws being passed in 10 states and counting, there is no such 'medical marijuana' exemption in the federal laws. So what this case was really about is who wins when the feds get involved: the central government or the individual state?

We believe it should be the state. To be sure, the doctrine of 'states' rights' has been used to defend the indefensible in our nation's history, whether slavery in the old South or resistance to civil rights laws in more recent memory. But that doesn't mean the decisions of states should always be ignored.

What's even the point of passing laws on the state level if the federal government can refuse to honor and respect those laws under a bogus 'interstate commerce' argument? Conservatives have long argued and - especially under the current administration - even liberals are beginning to agree that what we need in this country are not more laws, but fewer. Given a choice between an increasing centralization vs. a decentralization of power and authority, most of us are now opting for the latter.

Now, thanks to the 6-to-3 decision of an apparently stoned Supreme Court, the feds can continue to override local authority when it comes to the medicinal use of marijuana.

Don't they have something better to do with their time than to make outlaws out of sick Californians? Aren't there any terrorists out there?


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