Clarence Thomas: Spark it up?

By Mark Follman
November 29, 2004 10:26PM (UTC)
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The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to review the February 2004 state Supreme Court ruling in Massachusetts allowing same-sex marriage. But today it hears oral arguments on whether the Constitution permits the federal government to take action against people who use homegrown marijuana for medicinal reasons within states where it's been made legal, including California.

"The case is the third medical pot case to reach the Supreme Court since voters overwhelmingly approved California's Compassionate Use Act," reports the Washington Post. "But the legal issues this time give the case importance well beyond the 11 states, mostly in the West, that since 1996 have eased or eliminated penalties for medical use of marijuana."


The case may hinge on states' rights, and what some view as outdated federal law for regulating interstate commerce. That's created some intriguing alliances:

"Three conservative Deep South states, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, have filed a friend of the court brief supporting the marijuana users on states' rights grounds. 'California is entitled to make for itself the tough policy choices that affect its citizens,' the states' brief argues.

"Legal analysts say the likeliest supporter on the court for the marijuana users may also be its most conservative member: Justice Clarence Thomas, who, though a harsh critic of drug abuse, has also written that the court must narrowly define Congress's commerce clause powers."

Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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