Pubdate: Fri, 10 Jun 2005
Source: Korea Herald, The (South Korea)
Copyright: 2005 Korea Herald
Author: Doug Bandow
Note: Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. He served as a 
special assistant to President Reagan.
Bookmark: (Gonzales v. Raich)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


The U.S. government cannot ban criminals from bringing guns to
schools. But it can arrest a person for growing marijuana at home to
ease nausea from chemotherapy. Such is the state of Supreme Court

The intellectual case for America's "war on drugs" faded long ago.
Criminalization of what is primarily a moral and health problem has
done little to stop substance abuse. But the "war on drugs" has
penalized the desperately ill and dying, who have turned to pot as a
last resort.

A decade ago California legalized medical marijuana. Ten other states
followed, allowing patients - suffering from such diseases as AIDS,
cancer, glaucoma, and multiple sclerosis - to smoke grass for relief
from nausea and pain.

Although state troopers and local police no longer toss these users in
jail, Uncle Sam continues to arrest even those who are dying. Never
mind that Congress is dominated by Republicans claiming to believe in
federalism, state autonomy, and limited government.

Fifteen years ago the U.S. Supreme Court began to revive the original
constitutional understanding that the federal government did not have
unlimited jurisdiction. The court controversially overturned the Gun
Free School Zones Act of 1990 (Lopez) and part of the 1994 Violence
Against Women Act (Morrison).

These decisions suggested there were at least some limits on
congressional power. No longer.

As Justice Sandra Day O'Connor noted in her dissent in Gonzales v.
Raich, "The states' core police powers have always included authority
to define criminal law and to protect the health, safety, and welfare
of their citizens." Now Washington busily overrides states that seek
to protect the sick.

Angel Raich, one of the plaintiffs, suffers from multiple ailments,
including chronic pain, nausea, scoliosis, seizures, spasms, multiple
tumors, and wasting syndrome. It is obvious that Ms. Raich is no
recreational pot user.

"We are not being disobedient," she notes: "We are just using this
medicine because it saves our lives." Her doctor, Frank Lucido, says
pot was "the only drug of almost three dozen we have tried that works."

Although Angel Raich has not gone to jail, the government has targeted
other patients who use and grow medical pot. For instance, the Drug
Enforcement Agency raided the garden of co-plaintiff and fellow
Californian Diane Monson, who suffers from degenerative spine disease.

Advocates of Washington's drug war, from federal officials like "drug
czar" John Walters to coercive "prevention" groups, such as the Drug
Free America Foundation, cry crocodile tears for the sick, arguing
that marijuana is not good medicine. Maybe, but the anecdotal evidence
is impressive.

Overwhelming majorities of American and British oncologists say they
would recommend that their patients use pot if it was legal. Even the
federal government's own National Institute of Health acknowledged
that "marijuana looks promising enough to recommend that there be new
controlled studies done."

But pot's value as a medicine doesn't matter in terms of Uncle Sam's
role. The efficacy debate should be carried out in state governments
across America, not Washington.

If residents of Oregon, Colorado, Arizona, or any other state believe
that someone dying of cancer should be left alone if he or she uses
marijuana to control chemo-induced nausea, Uncle Sam should butt out.
As Justice O'Connor observed, "There is simply no evidence that
homegrown medicinal marijuana users constitute, in the aggregate, a
sizable enough class to have a discernible, let alone substantial,
impact on the national illicit drug market."

The issue is not just victimizing people who already are vulnerable,
desperate, and depressed. It also is whether there is any limit on the
reach of Uncle Sam's mailed fist. Warned Justice O'Connor, the ruling
"threatens to sweep all of productive human activity into federal
regulatory reach."

Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Associate Justice Clarence Thomas
also dissented. Wrote the latter, "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."

Indeed, if the opinion in Gonzales v. Raich is correct, why did the
nation's founders bother to write a constitution? They simply could
have explained legislative power in one sentence, "Congress can do
anything that it pleases."

Presidential candidate George W. Bush said medical marijuana should be
left up to the states. But President George W. Bush's administration
successfully urged the Supreme Court to endorse federal supremacy in a
sick person's garden. Limited government in America is dead.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake