Stone misreads Constitution

February 07, 2006

Jeff Morrell, Columnist, North County Times

Supervisor Jeff Stone's assertion that Riverside County should join a lawsuit against the state of California to end the medical marijuana act is both misguided and asinine. The logic behind the lawsuit is that the Supremacy Clause (Article VI) of the U.S. Constitution prohibits states from creating laws that conflict with federal laws; because federal law prohibits the use of marijuana, any state law that allows its use is unconstitutional.

On the surface, this argument seems to have some merit. However, I believe that a major component of Article VI is being overlooked by the lawsuit proponents. Specifically, the section of Article VI being cited states, "This Constitution, and the laws of the United states which shall be made in pursuance thereof ... shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding."

The phrase "which shall be made in pursuance thereof" adds a very significant and special meaning to the Supremacy Clause. This phrase is what prevents Congress from overwriting the Constitution with inane laws (as opposed to amendments), because ultimately, only those federal laws which are "in pursuance of" the Constitution are allowed this supremacy.

Otherwise, Congress could pass a law that every state must have the same state bird, and no state, under any circumstances, could bypass such a law. The phrase "in pursuance thereof" means that any law must support and adhere to the Constitution for the Supremacy Clause to apply.

The Constitution does not grant Congress the power to prohibit citizens from using drugs. In fact the powers of Congress are not only limited by the Constitution, they are also specifically defined by the Constitution.

Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution lays out the specific powers of Congress. The powers granted by this section allow Congress to print money, raise a military, make rules for the government (not the people), declare war, etc., yet do not allow Congress to prohibit citizens from growing, smoking, wearing, eating, playing with, being near, looking at, thinking about, or in any other way interacting with any type of anything (except money), whatsoever (except in the capital, or except as taxes may be levied or commerce regulated.)

In fact, when the Congress desired to outlaw the possession and consumption of alcohol, a constitutional amendment was required, as was the amendment to repeal the prohibition amendment. No such original power or amendment exists to support any federal law prohibiting the ingestion of drugs.

One constitutional amendment that does speak to the issue(s) of this lawsuit is the 10th Amendment, which states "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." In other words, if Congress enacts a law which is not "in pursuance" of the Constitution, and that law is counteracted by a state law (i.e. medicinal marijuana law), then the state law shall prevail.

Riverside County has no business interfering with the right of the People of California to enact laws, as fully authorized by the constitutions of the United States and California. Furthermore, expending public money in any such effort is a dereliction of duty, and a violation of the public trust.

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