Friday, June 10, 2005

WSJ's Henniger on the Medical Marijuana, Commerce, Federalism Case

OpinionJournal - Wonder Land: "Liberalism to cancer patients: Drop dead. Meanwhile, dissents on behalf of medical marijuana were written by Sandra Day O'Connor, a cancer survivor, and Clarence Thomas, whose nomination was fought by recreational pot users...

If the Court's four liberals had ruled in favor of state laws allowing medical marijuana, which federal law forbids, that precedent would have helped conservative efforts to reduce federal clout in other areas, such as environmental authority in the West. Thus Justice Stevens wrote that the Controlled Substances Act, a Nixon-era law, "is a valid exercise of federal power, even as applied to the troubling facts of this case." Liberals with cancer should take solace in knowing they will be vomiting to save the snail darter.

In his dissent, Justice Thomas, liberalism's archfiend, noted: "The majority prevents states like California from devising drug policies that they have concluded provide much-needed respite to the seriously ill." And: "Our federalist system, properly understood, allows California and a growing number of other states to decide for themselves how to safeguard the health and welfare of their citizens."

This is an abstruse but important legal debate about the Commerce Clause and federal legal power in the 21st century. Liberals, if they wanted to, could recognize that letting the states take the lead on controversial issues involving behavior among consenting adults--both personal and commercial--might abet their beliefs in this day and age. But they won't. Thus friends sick with cancer must choke down this decision.

Not all cancer patients are interested in the Hundred Years War underway between conservatives and liberals. They probably think common sense should allow Justice Thomas's "much-needed respite." The usual tangle of public policy makes that difficult."

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