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Many Questions Asked by Justices, Few Signs of Support

 
11/29/2004: United States Supreme Court Justices today heard the first day of arguments in the Raich, et al v. Ashcroft, et al medical marijuana case. At issue in the case is whether the federal government can regulate issue of intrastate commerce. However, Angel Raich and Diane Monson both use marijuana grown at their homes in California, which is one of 11 states that allow medicinal use of cannabis. Today their attorney presented the argument that Raich and Monson's use of marijuana should be seen as beyond the reach of federal authority since no the marijuana use does not involve economic activity.

11/29/2004: United States Supreme Court Justices today heard the first day of arguments in the Raich, et al v. Ashcroft, et al medical marijuana case. At issue in the case is whether the federal government can regulate issue of intrastate commerce. However, Angel Raich and Diane Monson both use marijuana grown at their homes in California, which is one of 11 states that allow medicinal use of cannabis. Today their attorney presented the argument that Raich and Monson's use of marijuana should be seen as beyond the reach of federal authority since no the marijuana use does not involve economic activity.

Chief Justice William Rehnquist was not present because he is recovering from treatment for thyroid cancer. In the past, under Rehnquist's leadership, the Court has insisted that the federal power to regulate commerce does not mean the federal government can regulate everything. For example, in 1995 the Rehnquist majority struck down a federal gun control law and said "mere gun possession" is not part of interstate commerce.



The questions that the Justices who were on the bench today asked seemed to indicate that they are not certain that the court is the correct place in which to argue this issue. One justice pointed out that if the issue in question is a total ban on marijuana, Congress would be a better place to take up the issue; and that if the question was about medicinal use of pot, the FDA should be consulted. Justice O'Connor said Monday California has a strong argument on the grounds of federalism. "As I understand it, none of this home-grown marijuana will be on any interstate market," she said. She said that the use of marijuana that is homegrown is generally regulated by states: "This limited exception [to the drug laws] is a noneconomic use -- growing for personal use." More info



History: The US Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), Title II of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970. It replaced more than 50 pieces of drug legislation, went into effect on May 1, 1971, and was enforced by DEA's predecessor agency. This law, along with its implementing regulations, established a single system of control for narcotic and psychotropic drugs for the first time in U.S. history. It also established five schedules that classify controlled substances according to how "dangerous" they are, their potential for abuse and addiction, and whether they possess legitimate medical value. Twenty-eight years later, the CSA, though amended on several occasions, remained the legal framework from which the DEA derived its authority. Read more in the online DEA History Book.



DrugWarRant's Guide to the Raich, et al case

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