Given the enforcement difficulties that attend distinguishing between marijuana cultivated locally and marijuana grown elsewhere, and concerns about diversion into illicit channels, the Court has no difficulty concluding that Congress had a rational basis for believing that failure to regulate the intrastate manufacture and possession of marijuana would leave a gaping hole in the [Controlled Substances Act].What makes that incredibly, insanely, mind bogglingly dishonest is the fact that almost every single arrest so far in these cases has involved busting growers. That's right. Six justices of the US Supreme Court sat there and said, with their bare faces hanging out, that DEA agents who are looking right at the plants, still in their hydroponic containers or in the ground, can't tell where the plants are grown. ("Umm, officer? Could it be that they were grown right in front of you?") And in fact, they admit that in the opinion itself, under the summary of the history of the facts of the case:
Respondent Monson cultivates her own marijuana, and ingests the drug in a variety of ways including smoking and using a vaporizer. Respondent Raich, by contrast, is unable to cultivate her own, and thus relies on two caregivers, litigating as “John Does,” to provide her with locally grown marijuana at no charge. ... On August 15, 2002, county deputy sheriffs and agents from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) came to Monson’s home. After a thorough investigation, the county officials concluded that her use of marijuana was entirely lawful as a matter of California law. Nevertheless, after a 3-hour standoff, the federal agents seized and destroyed all six of her cannabis plants.But that just softened me up for the real blow. I was watching the evening news on the local NBC affiliate, and one of the quotes they ran with this story was of some politician saying, "Marijuana is no more a medicine than crack or heroin." And that, my friends, is when I started beating my head against the desk. Why? Because both cocaine and heroin are legal to prescribe under certain circumstances. If you don't know that, you're not competent to have an opinion on this case. Sit down and shut up.
And of course, it only gets worse. I didn't get around to starting reading the whole full text of the decision (linked above) until right before I was going to start this journal entry, and I admit I only got about halfway through it. But in the summary, they address the question that most fascinated me. The whole constitutionality of the Controlled Substances Act relates to the fact that by definition, prescription drugs are compact and easy to transport across state lines, so the country needs uniform control laws. For those of you who didn't pay attention in class, or who aren't from the US, they had to argue it that way all the way back at the beginning, because the US Constitution specifically says that Congress can't get involved in criminal law cases unless there is an inter-state component; otherwise, it's up to the local states. So given that the statute only permits people to grow their own marijuana for medical reasons, or to obtain it only from local growers, where's the interstate commerce authority here?
The ruling pins the whole justification for their decision on a 1942 Supreme Court decision in a food rationing case, Wickard v Filburn. I'd never heard of it. But when I understood the reasoning in Wickard v Filburn, I broke out in maniacal laughter. In Wickard, the Court was asked to rule on whether or not some farmer was violating the food rationing laws by keeping food that he grew for himself. The court ruled that every purchase in a market has effects on the whole national and global market, so if a product is sold in more than one state, every use or purchase has interstate effects. How? By reducing demand. If he grows and eats his own wheat, he's reducing the demand for wheat. Do you see the funny here? Justice Stevens (for the majority) is saying that Congress has federal authority to stop them because by growing their own marijuana for free or consuming locally grown marijuana they were given for free, Angel Raich and Diane Monson are reducing the nation-wide market for marijuana. And Lord Knows, We Wouldn't Want That Now, Would We?