The Dope Docket


On the basis of early reporting from this morning's oral arguments in Raich v. Ashcroft, it sounds as though the justices are fairly skeptical. The AP report has Justice Breyer suggesting that "supporters of marijuana for the ill should take their fight to federal drug regulators—before coming to the Supreme Court," which is too bad, since what's at issue is precisely whether they should have to beg permission from the feds to take medicine approved by their states' laws. Most depressingly stupid paragraph in the piece:

Some Republican members of Congress, meanwhile, urged the court to consider that more than 20,000 people die each year because of drug abuse. A ruling against the government, they said, would help drug traffickers avoid arrest, increase the marijuana supply and send a message that illegal drugs are good.

First, of course, a whole lot of those deaths have to do with prohibition's undermining dosage and quality control. Second, even if that weren't the case it seems relevant that none of those deaths are the direct result of marijuana overdoses. Third, it's not clear why making the medicinal use of a drug legal sends the message that illegal drugs are good (lots of people using illegal marijuana to raise their quality of life might do that) any more than the current regime sends the message that Percocet is good. Fill in Fourth through Nth yourself…

NEXT: Reason Talk: Popular Culture in the Middle East

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. So the Supreme’s aren’t buying the arguement that there is no interstate commerce for the feds to regulate?

    I wish the Supreme’s had the balls to stand up to the feds… :/

  2. Someone just forwarded this to me. Look what you can get at Target now:

  3. Lowdog,
    Balls aren’t the problem. The SCOTUS has never had a problem telling the feds and everyone else their whim trumps all.

    Nice link. I like the ‘see other page’ run around.

    As to the issue at hand…
    this is so depressing. I need a drink. Guess I’ll save that fatty for another day.

  4. Having sat in on oral arguments in this case today, it is clear to me that federal officials are living in bizarro world. They argue that medical marijuana affects interstate commerce because patients in California that grow their own don?t buy it in the underground market, which means demand for illegal marijuana goes down, which results in lower prices for street marijuana. Since our national drug laws are supposed to discourage drug use by raising drug prices through prohibition, medical marijuana interferes with federal efforts to disrupt interstate commerce in illegal drugs. This is, of course, absurd. By this preposterous logic, the government should actually encourage people to use illegal drugs. If more people buy drugs, the prices of drugs would rise, and high prices would discourage drug users from buying more drugs! Sadly, this absurd logic seemed to make sense to most Supreme Court Justices. In reality, cancer and AIDS patients in California who grow their own marijuana in the privacy of their own home have no effect on interstate commerce, with the possible exception of causing more Doritos to be shipped to California grocery stores.

  5. Sadly, this absurd logic seemed to make sense to most Supreme Court Justices.

    because, mr piper, they’re not looking for a reason so much as an excuse.

  6. …and depending on a majority of the Court being willing to hang their hat on any convenient excuse, in order to justify ruling the way they want to anyway.

    See Bush vs. Gore. The only question being, did 5 justices walk into the room this morning determined to support the drug warriors?

  7. What upsets me about all this is that a public health issue has been turned into a legal and law enforcement issue. The FDA should be allowed to decide, using ALL the FACTS, whether drugs should be legal for consumption. Things that people fail to bring up in medical marijuana (and most illegal drugs) is the fact that marijuana doesn’t require being smoked. It can be eaten or vaporized, but the current costs restrict most people to smoking it dangerously. If marijuana were to be legalized, people would drink tinctures of it or spread the butter containing the psychoactive chemicals on food.

    Same goes for cocaine and heroin. If the stuff cost less, people would take pills, drink tinctures or elixirs containing heroin or cocaine, have nasal sprays, throat sprays, etc…The only reason drugs are so “dangerous” is because of their legal status. Nobody would smoke crack or shoot up if they didn’t have to get the most bang for their buck. I just want to choke the “drug Czar” when she keeps talking about marijuana being “snake oil”. Let me get this right: It’s wrong to take diamorphine (heroin) but okay to take Oxycontin (synthetic diamorphine)? It’s okay to give a 10-year-old Adderall (amphetamine/dextroamphetamine) but wrong for adults to take methamphetamine? It’s okay to take all these blood pressure, arthritis, and allergy medicines that destroy you liver…but wrong to take marijuana that has never directly killed or injured one person in known history? Seems to me the federal government is more concerned with helping pharmaceutical companies hold a monopoly on medicines, instead of actually helping the sick. What about Sativex, the cannabis extract oral spray that came out recently?

    The benefits of legalizing drugs outweigh the risks (increased use and DEA agents losing their jobs), but until people stop using the word “legalize” like something evil people will never realize these FACTS. After all, everyone is addicted to something. Capitalism relies on addiction and habituation, because no company would make it if people only purchased their product one time.

  8. And by the way, where is Dr. Lester Grinspoon when people need him? He is the foremost expert on cannabis and a very legitimate, accredited proponent of cannabis. Not only does he know his shit, but he has spent over 30 years researching the stuff. A Harvard professor will get people their medicine, not a bunch of Californians. Our country needs to realize that drugs being legal and people being responsible in their choice to use them is a CONSERVATIVE belief, liberal progressives created the drug laws.

  9. That docket is dope, man!

  10. It almost impossible for the state to admit an error, that marijuana was never so useless and threatening that it deserved prohibition. Since the FDA would never reconsider, the only avenue for civil redress may be tangential points of law before the Supremes.

  11. There is but one choice:

    Overgrow the government!!!

  12. …20,000 people die each year because of drug abuse.

    10,000 people die every year from using OTC drugs like Tylenol (or so I have read). I expect an immediate ban. 🙂

  13. I think the killer argument was the one about how if people can use pot, they won’t have to buy expensive drugs from Big Pharma. Since corporations have more rights than people do, we’re not gonna beat that one.

  14. Reading Mr L Solum’s summary is extremely depressing. I just can’t understand where some of these people’s heads are at. They don’t seem to be living in reality at all.

    Of course, were they to talk to me, they might feel the same thing. But the callousness, for one, and the downright misleading statements are just de-pressing.

  15. Having sat in on oral arguments in this case today, it is clear to me that federal officials are living in bizarro world. They argue that medical marijuana affects interstate commerce because patients in California that grow their own don?t buy it in the underground market, which means demand for illegal marijuana goes down, which results in lower prices for street marijuana.

    Sadly, that’s current law under the Wickard decision from the 1930s. A farmer grew more wheat than the national planning board for wheat allowed and fed that wheat to his pigs. Not surprisingly, he sued under the theory that the state only has power over interstate commerce, and since he was growing wheat on his own land and feeding it to his own pigs, Congress had no authority to tell him what to do.

    The Supreme Court came back with an astonishing decision that said that his growing his own wheat affects interstate commerce by affecting the national market for wheat. Hence, any activity that affects interstate commerce can be regulated by Congress, which is basically everything.

    – Josh

  16. It’s not that these anti-drug people, like Partnership for a Drug-Free America, have some higher motives and are twisted. They are simply ignorant. You will never have a drug-free America, unless they were to outlaw all medicines, OTC and RX, caffeine, alcohol and tobacco, give every person in the country very very in-depth drug tests, and send all people who fail them to camps to be executed. Now is it REALLY worth that? No. Sorry, but people will always use drugs so admit that and make the best of it.

    Legalizing them would create a new breed of billionaires and make the economy grow by leaps and bounds, employing people in all fields from construction workers to make the facilities to lawyers working for the companies to advertising majors advertising/marketing the stuff. And on, and on, and on. There is literally NO reason for any drug to be deemed “criminal”. Not heroin, not cocaine, no MDMA, not methamphetamine, not morphine, not opium and DEFINATELY not marijuana. Only a few things like LSD that really would be a problem because it would be so easy to sneak anyone with a huge dose and make them have severe mental problems.

    Most people (probably 99%) believe some drug propaganda, especially drug users themselves. I’ve actually had people I know tell me “Well, if drugs were made legal they wouldn’t be fun. don’t want them to be.” Exactly! Legalizing them would remove the subcultures that come with drug use. Most people love drugs being illegal, they don’t have to work or pay taxes on the shit they sell.

    And this is just speaking of domestic issues. How can we have a War on Drugs, that costs as much as a REAL war in Iraq each year, with no possible end in sight? It makes NO sense if you actually take a look at facts and don’t run screaming as soon as someone uses the word “legalization”. Give me one reason for making drugs illegal and there are fifty reasons that belief is false.

  17. “…20,000 people die each year because of drug abuse.”

    And over 400,000 people will die of complications of cigarette smoking, yet cigarettes remain legal. Over 20,000 people will die in auto accidents this year, yet cars remain legal.

    How many of those 20,000 people who die of drug abuse died because of violence associated with the drug trade? Or is that counted separately? Nothing was learned during Prohibition, I see…

  18. Reading Mr L Solum’s summary is extremely depressing. I just can’t understand where some of these people’s heads are at. They don’t seem to be living in reality at all.

    mr lowdog, i think we are relearning the truth about the supreme court: that it is first and foremost a political office, not a legal one. note that there is no requirement of legal or judicial experience to sit as a supreme court justice.

  19. Whether 20,000 people a year die from drug abuse, or whether more people die from legal drugs, is utterly irrelevant to the question before the Court, which was whether the Interstate Commerce Clause gives Congress the power to regulate the use of marijuana grown on someone’s property and smoked by her for medical reasons.

    Back when Congress first regulated marijuana, it understood that the Constitution created a federal government of limited power, and so it used the taxing power (article I, sec. 8, clause 1) to impose a tax of $100 per ounce. (That, by the way, is why what’s now DEA was originally in the Treasury Department.) Congress later dispensed with such niceties, when it found that the courts would let them justify *anything* as a regulation of “interstate commerce.” More recently, though, the Supreme Court has ruled that when the Framers gave Congress the power “to regulate Commerce . . . among the several States,” those words must have meant something other than “to pass any laws they damn well please, so long as they don’t violate some explicit prohibition such as the first amendment or the rule against ex post facto laws.”

    Unfortunately, it looks like that era of taking the text of the constitution seriously is about to come to an end. The government has raised the spectre of that ole debbil marijuana, and the Court is obligingly prepared to cut a wide road through the law to get at the devil. And if you don’t like it, you’re on the side of the drug kingpins and terrorists. Or something.

  20. The drug kingpins’ best friends are the governments who create prohibitions, allowing them to become extremely wealthy and powerful. I just love the completely IGNORANCE on this issue. Almost every other issue actually has more than one solution to it, where they all could work. This one has only one side to it: legalization, not “decriminalization”, or “medicalization”…legalization. Able to buy the stuff in a drug store at the age of 21, just like liquor.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.