Thursday, June 16, 2005

Update: Supreme Court upholds Federal ban on medical marijuana

Update to: Congress Almighty

So, the supreme court upheld the Federal ban on medical marijuana (Gonzales vs. Raich, pdf): it seems that there is no way for a state to allow its citizens to use any drug without the permission of Congress.

Unfortunately, this is about much more than drugs. As Justice Thomas wrote:
If Congress can regulate this under the Commerce Clause, then it can regulate virtually anything‚—and the Federal Government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers.
If the majority is to be taken seriously, the federal Government may now regulate quilting bees, clothes drives, and potluck suppers throughout the 50 States.
Wow. I'm not sure what limits the majority thinks still remain on the enumerated power of the Federal government. I wonder if we should ever face another period of anti-socialist hysteria, whether the Federal government could outlaw co-ops and communes: after all, by sharing resources they alter the demand for products sold across state borders.

This court-battle has given me an opportunity to reflect on some aspects of our society. First, there's our ability to make fun of our disappointments--see Yes Virginia, I do believe in the Commerce Clause, posted at Marginal Revolution by Alex Tabarrok. Second, there is the way that we treat these subjects in our literature--includingchildren'ss books like Harry Potter. The constant expansion of Federal power in the name of the drug war reminds me of the expansion of the High Inquisitor's powers in Harry Potter and the Order of thePhoenixx. Finally, I got some insights into the mentality that supports the expansion of centralized governmental power.

While reading up on this decision, I came across an editorial from the Indianapolis Star, with the title A Prescription for Uniform Drug Policy. They supported the Supreme Court decision, but I couldn't find a good explanation for why. The closest explanation I found was that unless Congress has absolute power to regulate drugs...
...there could be a patchwork quilt of state laws dealing not only with illegal drugs but also with medicines, not to mention controls on the manufacture, distribution and use of such drugs.
And the point is, what? What is the problem with allowing localities to regulate medicines according to their own understanding and values? My only guess is that they are concerned that this "patchwork" of laws would make it difficult to do business in different localities, and if something is good for big business then it is good, period, regardless of what regular folk want. After all, regular folk are nothing more than a cog to be fit into the machine that is modern industry, and cogs have to be identical or else they don't fit into the machine nicely. Maybe the Indy Star editors don't have this "cog-maker" mentality, but they seem to. Anyway, this attitude is common among the economic/political/media elite, and is just as dangerous as the mentality of the willing slave.

Finally, there are a few bills before Congress that may help re-establish the proper balance of power between local and central government, but I fear that the worst damage cannot be undone without a Constitutional amendment.

The main bill before Congress is called The States Right to Medical Marijuana Act (HR 2087). For information on this bill, see:

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