Today's ruling on medical marijuana may set the stage for a showdown between the feds and local law enforcement -- and it definitely means more pain for the chronically sick.
Today’s Supreme Court ruling upholding federal prosecution of medical marijuana users has the war on drugs — a smashing success story, as we all know — back in the headlines. John Walters, drug czar under the Bush White House, weighed in with this statement: “Today’s decision marks the end of medical marijuana as a political issue.”
“Our national medical system relies on proven scientific research, not popular opinion,” Walters told The Associated Press.
Advocates for the drug’s legal use by the terminally ill saw the ruling differently.
“The federal government still has a choice — it can waste taxpayer dollars by going after sick and dying patients or go after individuals who pose a real danger to society,” said Dan Abrahamson of the Drug Policy Alliance, according to Reuters.
Barbara Bergman, president-elect of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said, “If our Constitution means anything, it should mean that the ‘war on drugs’ cannot be made to be a war on the quality of life of chronically or terminally ill Americans.”
The case focused on two California women, Diane Monson and Angel McClary Raich, who have used marijuana to get relief from excruciating pain, which is permitted by state law. What’s striking is Justice John Paul Stevens’ strong ambivalence in writing the majority opinion: He said the case was made difficult by the women’s “strong arguments that they will suffer irreparable harm” without marijuana. However, he wrote, “well-settled law controls our answer.”
“The Controlled Substances Act is a valid exercise of federal power,” Stevens said, “even as applied to the troubling facts of this case.”
As Stevens pointed out, the question before the court was not whether it was wise to enforce federal law under the circumstances, but only whether Congress has the power to adopt such a law, versus the right of states to decide the issue. (In that regard, some conservatives on the high court took the opportunity to dissent — Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who was joined on most points by Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justice Clarence Thomas, wrote, “The states’ core police powers have always included authority to define criminal law and to protect the health, safety and welfare of their citizens.”)
California Attorney General Bill Lockyer said he was disappointed with the ruling but not surprised, nor was he overly concerned about its impact. “People shouldn’t panic,” he said, “there aren’t going to be many changes.” Local and state officers handle most marijuana prosecutions and must still follow any state laws that protect patients. “Nothing is different today than it was two days ago in terms of real world impact,” Lockyer said. “There’s a California law which conflicts with the federal law. Federal law treats heroin and marijuana the same, which is illogical.”
Ultimately, the democratic process might be more important than the legal challenges presented by the case, Justice Stevens further explained, adding that supporters of medical marijuana “may one day be heard in the halls of Congress.”
That democratic process, though, can be excruciatingly slow — and for terminally ill patients like Monson and Raich who are in a lot of pain, their day to be heard on Capitol Hill probably can’t come too soon.
More Related Stories
- There's no substitute for government disaster relief
- Holder signed off on search warrant for reporter
- Mississippi could begin prosecuting women for miscarriages
- Mike Judge: "Bowling for Columbine" made me pro-gun
- Closing Gitmo is not enough
- Murkowski: Palin too disengaged to run for Senate
- In IRS scandal, new GOP tactic is ignorance
- Code Pink activist berates Obama at national security speech
- Cuomo: "Shame on us" if New York City elects Weiner
- Coburn calls questions about tornado aid "typical Washington B.S."
- Conspiracy theorists clash over London attack
- Voting is not a right
- Destroying the planet for record profits
- Ahead of Obama's speech, U.S. acknowledges four American drone killings
- Pic of the day: Barack Obama at prom
- Anti-Islam backlash in London after machete attack
- Must-see morning clip: Bill O'Reilly visits "The Daily Show"
- Obama’s drone speech will probably be maddening
- Boehner: "Inconceivable" Obama didn't know about IRS targeting
- Obama to announce new effort to close Guantanamo Bay
- House supporters of KXL received $56m from fossil fuel industry
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11
War Room is our political news and commentary blog, with coverage and commentary throughout the day.