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Medical Marijuana is a State’s Rights Issue

Opinion Editorial
May 1, 2001

Author: Mike Krause

The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled on the issue of medical marijuana. From some of the media coverage, one might believe that Colorado is barred from implementing our State’s voter-approved medical marijuana laws. Not true.

In The United States vs. Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative, the court ruled only on the issue of whether medical marijuana providers could use medical necessity as a defense in federal court if charged under the federal Controlled Substances Act.  The court ruled they could not.  And indeed, the Act, which makes it a federal crime to distribute, manufacture or possess with the intent to distribute marijuana, does not contain a medical exemption and it seems the court simply upheld the plain language of the law.

But this in no way prohibits Colorado from implementing medical marijuana policy.  Unfortunately it still allows the federal Drug Enforcement Agency to kick in the doors and screw up the lives of those who might deign to offer sick people an alternative source of relief.  But it doesnt have to be that way.

Congressman Barney Frank (D, MA) has introduced H.R. 1344, the States Rights for Medical Marijuana act, which would simply allow states to implement medical marijuana policy without interference from the federal government.  Rep. Frank has a long history of civil rights advocacy, but is also a long time supporter of an ever larger, more powerful central government.  This makes it all the more disturbing that a member of the left wing of the Democratic Party would have to take up the call on what should be a Republican issue.

Whether it is environmental regulations, public education, President Clintons attempted government takeover of health care or allowing states to experiment with welfare policy, it has always been the Republican Party that has championed the idea of federalism and griped about top-down, one size fits all and coercive mandates on the states from Washington DC

It was presidential candidate Bob Dole who carried in his breast pocket and proudly displayed a copy of the tenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution; The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited to it by the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

And yet even the most tortured reading of the constitution (specifically the commerce clause, which has been used as justifications for federal prohibition of marijuana in general) fails to justify the federal banning of marijuana produced in Colorado and distributed and used for medicinal purposes by Coloradans.  Or any other purpose under state law, for that matter.

Since 1996, voters in nine states, including Colorado, have passed medical marijuana initiatives.  So what has the Republican response to medical marijuana been?  The GOP Congress denounced voters who OKd medical marijuana. Congress even barred the District of Columbia from even counting the votes in the city’s own medical marijuana initiative.

The Clinton Administration wasnt much better, threatening to prosecute any Doctor who dared prescribe marijuana under state law.

President Bush strongly opposes medical marijuana. As Governor of Texas, he signed a law to prevent cities or towns in the state from enacting medical marijuana laws. Then-presidential candidate Bush said he believed the states ought to be able to decide the issue for themselves. He also repeatedly claimed to trust the people more than the government.

But contrary to candidate Bush’s state’s rights view of the issue, new federal drug “Czar” John Walters thinks that the federal government should go even further than it already has in suppressing state’s rights.

Writing for the National Review, Senior Editor Richard Brookhiser begins, I am a conservative Republican.  And indeed, Mr. Brookhisers Republican credentials are impressive.  He goes on to describe his bout with testicular cancer and his successful use of smoked marijuana to alleviate the agony of chemotherapy.  But as he points out There was only one problem-I had to become a criminal to do this.

Brookhiser ends his piece, My support for medical marijuana is not a contradiction of my principles, but an extension of them.  I am for law and order, but crime has to be fought intelligently, and the law disgraces itself when it harasses the sick, I support the Christian Coalition and supported the moral majority, but carrying your moral beliefs to unjust ends is not moral, it is philistine.  More importantly, I believe in getting government off peoples backs.  We should include the backs of sick people trying to help themselves.

So which will Colorados Congressional delegation work to support: the decision of Colorado voters or the dictates of  federal bureaucracy?


Mike Krause is a Research Associate at the Independence Institute,
a health care reform research organization in Golden, https://i2i.org.


This article, from the Independence Institute staff, fellows and research network,
is offered for your use at no charge. Independence Feature Syndicate articles
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Copyright 2001