High court needlessly stirs pot

June 08, 2005

EDITORIAL, Patriot-News (PA)

We've previously lament ed the penchant for Congress and the federal government as a whole to waste time on such matters as steroids in baseball when deficits are running amok, the health-care system is in chaos and war still rages in Iraq.

So it is with medical marijuana. It just seems like there are more pressing issues than whether some cancer patients can be allowed to smoke pot to alleviate their pain and induce appetite.

Nonetheless, a major can of worms has been opened on several fronts now that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the federal government's drug laws can supersede those of the states. 

Voters in 10 states, through ballot referendums, have authorized the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

But that didn't stop federal drug agents from attempting to confiscate home-grown plants from California cancer patients Angel Raich and Diane Monson.

In a 6-3 decision, where some conservative justices sided with liberal colleagues and vice versa, the Supreme Court said the federal government had a right to impose its drug laws on states with medical marijuana provisions under interstate commerce regulations.

This is yet another perplexing example of how the supposedly conservative credentials of the Bush administration don't mesh with traditional conservative thinking. Disregarding the voters of 10 states in deciding how they want marijuana classified is certainly not supporting states' rights, which is usually a conservative premise.

In addition, the attorney general of California and his colleagues in some of the other affected states say they have no intention of enforcing the federal law, and patients say they have no intention of obeying it. But the feds can still come into those states and arrest users.

Federal drug agents usually focus on major dealers or large quantities and leave the smaller cases, such as street dealing and possession, to state and local authorities. Are they now going to spend their time looking for marijuana plants in California and Oregon backyards?

If so, this is good news for heroin smugglers.

The nation looks to the Supreme Court for clarity, but this is a muddled mess if ever we've seen one.

U.S. drug czar John Walters said the decision 'marks the end of medical marijuana as a political issue.' What's he smoking?

OUR VIEW The U.S. Supreme Court has opened a can of worms in ruling U.S. law supersedes states' over the medical use of marijuana.



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