Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

Supreme Court rules against patients and states

Jerry Stratton, June 9, 2005

Officially, the Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit on states’ rights. Randy Barnett’s insightful analysis is that this was a case of the Ninth Circuit reversing the Supreme Court, not the other way around.

The Ninth Circuit finally got its revenge on the Supreme Court justices who seemed to delight in reversing it. In Gonzales v. Raich, it gave the conservatives a choice: Uphold the Ninth Circuit's ruling favoring individuals engaged in the wholly intrastate non-economic activity of growing and consuming cannabis for medical purposes as recommended by a doctor and permitted by state law, or retreat from the landmark Commerce Clause decisions of U.S. v. Lopez (1995) and U.S. v. Morrison (2000). Either way the Ninth Circuit wins.

The intriguing part is that in this case, the Ninth Circuit was able to choose defendants who are compelling to at least half of the United States and probably quite a few percentage points more.

Part of what makes this result interesting is that all of the “leftist” members of the court voted to forbid states from letting patients use medical marijuana; the three dissenters were all “conservative” members. Some of the arguments in favor of the status quo were twisted; others simply amusing. Radley Balko at the Agitator writes:

The opinion was written by Stevens, one of the courts more leftist justices. This part is particularly laughable: Stevens said there are other legal options for patients, “but perhaps even more important than these legal avenues is the democratic process, in which the voices of voters allied with these respondents may one day be heard in the halls of Congress.”

As a colleague here in the office points out, the very fact that this case was heard by the Supreme Court arose from ballot initiatives in ten states. That is the democratic process. It’s localism, federalism, and democracy at its most responsive and most representative.

This was not a surprising verdict. I found it pleasantly surprising that three of the federalists stuck to their principles. In any case, compassionate use advocates are moving forward in the federal legislature. Write your congressfolks and let them know you support letting doctors prescribe effective medicine to their patients--or that you just support letting states let doctors do so.

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