Smoke free?

November 29, 2004

EDITORIAL, Las Vegas Review Journal

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday heard arguments in a California medical marijuana case that will have ramifications for a similar law in Nevada.

It's always difficult to read significance into the questioning during oral arguments before the high court. But we hope most of the justices were playing devil's advocate when they peppered the attorney for a brain tumor patient with skeptical questions about the validity of state statutes allowing the use of pot for medical purposes.

The case involves two California women, one of whom's home was raided two years ago. Local authorities accepted her story that she had a doctor's permission to grow six marijuana plants for medicinal use. But DEA agents insisted on seizing and destroying the plants.

The 9th U.S. Circuit of Appeals eventually ruled that federal officials had no jurisdiction in the matter under the Constitution's commerce clause because the dope had not been sold or transported across state lines.

This is an argument that the more conservative Supreme Court justices should respect. In recent years, they have been the driving force behind an aggressive push to limit the ability of Congress to cite the commerce clause as justification for meddling in virtually every aspect of human behavior.

Eleven states have medical marijuana laws, duly enacted following a popular vote. Make no mistake: The notion of federalism and state sovereignty will either be invigorated or obliterated, depending on the Supreme Court's decision in this case. Let's hope it's the former.

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