A Federalist Lawsuit


The city and county of Santa Cruz, California, collaborating with a local medical marijuana alliance, are suing John Ashcroft, among others, to stop federal drug busts on Californians growing or distributing medical marijuana in California and in accord with that state's law.

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  1. The “war on drugs” has been raging for two decades, has anyone seen any improvement? The rise of new drugs such as extacy and meth argue no. State and local budgets are growing out of control to feed these new government creatures AKA the drug task force and then whine about not having enough money. The Interstate Commerce Clause that Congress uses to usurp the Constitution does not apply to a situation where the business remains within the state so the Federal government has no, repeat NO jurisdiction in a case where the voters have already made the decision.

  2. I hope they have some good lawyers. Prohibition repeal a reason to vote for Bush in 2004? Perhaps: http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-alt042903.asp

  3. The editorial board of the local newspaper, the Santa Cruz Sentinel (http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/archive/2003/April/24/edit/edit.htm), and at least one author of a letter-to-the-editor (http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/archive/2003/April/29/edit/let.htm), have already made the mistake of implying that the suit is weak (or doomed) because it asks judges to deny that Federal law trumps state law. In actuality, it asks (among other things) for judges to acknowledge 1) that the government oversteps its authority in its drug prohibition, at least with regard to marijuana that is cultivated, distributed, and used within a state; and 2) when there is no proper constitutional authority for a federal law, state law does indeed trump federal law, by virtue of the latter being invalid (under the 10th amendment).

    Nobody with any credibility is flat-out predicting the outcome of the court case at this early stage. But the City/County of SC and WAMM make some persuasive points, and I personally feel that justice requires the courts to uphold the 10th Amendment and repudiate the outrageous and overreaching construction of the commerce clause, upon which the Controlled Substances Act depends.

    As far as Prohibition repeal being any reason to vote for Bush in 2004: what weed do you have in your pipe? Yes, a court of federalist judges might eventually strike down drug prohibition as an offense to federalism. But how long will THAT take? Progress through the courts is glacially slow, but the mischief that can be done and has been done by the past several occupants of the White House during their relatively brief terms has been (in my opinion, at least) as harmful in the long term as a federalist court might be beneficial in the long term. On the other hand, Bush’s promise to end the drug war by rallying a republican congress toward that end and signing the repeal, would be reason to at least consider voting for Bush in 2004. What are the chances of THAT happening? Slim-to-none, I would think.

  4. malory,
    The URL you provide, links to an article about federalism. While relevant, it says nothing directly about the war on drugs. Further, the proposition that Bush’s judicial nominees will be champions of federalism once on the bench is unsupported. The proposition that “Prohibition repeal a reason to vote for Bush in 2004” (sic) is ludicrous on the face of it.

  5. I’ll predict the outcome: good guys lose, let’s move on.

  6. >>Nobody with any credibility is flat-out predicting the outcome of the court case at this early stage.>I’ll predict the outcome: good guys lose, let’s move on.

  7. I’ve been waiting for years for someone to challenge the Controlled Substances Act’s negation of intra- vs. inter-state commerce. I’m about ready to take up smoking pot just to bring the case myself.

  8. I should have been more descriptive, re: “prohibition repeal”. No, I don’t think that marijuana prohibition will be either struck down by federalist judges, nor repealed on the Fed level at Bush’s request. I am saying that it is realistic that certain states will indeed repeal marijuana prohibition to some degree. With all of the vacancies at various levels of the Fed courts, the next POTUS will likely determine the chances of such measures to succeed.

    Now is that so ridiculous?

  9. James and Tuning Spork: You’re kidding right? After all this time has no one challenged prohibition on 10th amendment and ICC grounds?

    I just assumed that the courts just ran over those parts of the constitution like they ran over the 4th amendment with asset forfeiture.

  10. James,

    Would you want to be the Senator up for re-election after voting in favor of repealing marijuana prohibition? You think your opponent would let an hour go by without harping on your “pro-drug” stance. Unfortunately, there is zero chance of any measure that even slightly backs away from prohibition getting anywhere in congress, at least in my lifetime.

  11. The NRO commentary assumes that Republicans and conservative judges are genuinely federalist. The fact is, federalism has never been anything but an excuse to oppose specific federal policies (race- and gun-related, mostly) that conservatives dislike. They’re as willing as anyone else to make up reasons to squash state policies they don’t like.

    There is no definable political group that can be counted on to oppose the drug war (and certainly not family-values conservatives), just a collection of ideologically diverse grass roots types.

  12. If too many more states authorize medical or recreational marijuana at the state level, I think the pressure will be too great on the Congress, and they will either radically amend drug prohibition or repeal it outright, regardless of what the courts say and do. In that case, you’ll want a President who will actually sign the bill. Is Bush the man for the job?

    Frankly, if I were in the Congress, I would scramble to repeal prohibition because its defeat in court would almost certainly cripple the Congress’ ability to get in our business on the basis of the interstate commerce clause. They don’t want that. Best to sacrifice the damned prohibition before their entire bogus house of cards comes tumbling down. Call me cynical, but I think that’s the real, practical impetus for the Farr/Rohrabacher “medical mj exception” bill — a legal patch to moot serious consideration of the abuse of the commerce clause.

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