1. Federal law expressly prohibits the cultivation, processing, distribution, and use of marijuana. Since a national market...

Question:

1. Federal law expressly prohibits the cultivation, processing, distribution, and use of marijuana. Since a national market for marijuana cannot legally exist, why is this a Commerce Clause case?

2. Do you agree or disagree with the Court that locally grown and locally consumed crops can have an impact on interstate commerce?

3. The California law gave licensed physicians the legal authority to prescribe medical marijuana. When should a court have the right or power to substitute its judgment for the judgment of a trained physician?


In 1996, California voters approved a proposition legalizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes. The California legislature then adopted the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 to ensure that its residents had access to marijuana for medical use as an alternative to conventional medications. The law created an exemption from criminal prosecution for physicians, patients, and primary caregivers who possess or grow marijuana for medical use with the approval and recommendation of a physician. Angel Raich and Diane Monson were patients diagnosed with a variety of medical conditions that were not alleviated through traditional methods and medications. As a result, physicians for each patient prescribed marijuana. Raich’s physician testified that marijuana had been the only effective method to alleviate her symptoms and that discontinuing medical marijuana treatments would cause Raich excruciating pain and could very well prove fatal. In 2002, U.S. drug agents arrived at Monson’s home and confiscated and destroyed her marijuana plants pursuant to a federal law called the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Raich and Monson brought suit seeking to prevent federal law enforcement officials from enforcing the CSA in medical marijuana cases. They argued that enforcement of the CSA violated the Commerce Clause because the medical marijuana was cultivated and possessed within state borders and did not enter the stream of commerce. The trial court ruled in favor of the government, but the appellate court reversed the decision and ruled that the noncommercial cultivation and possession of marijuana was intrastate and was not intended to enter interstate commerce. The government appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the government and held that the CSA was a valid exercise of congressional powers derived from the Commerce Clause. In analyzing the question of purely intrastate production and use of marijuana, the Court  pointed out that Congress need only supply a rational basis for believing that locally cultivated marijuana would end up in interstate commerce. The Court held that congressional concerns about distinguishing between marijuana cultivated locally and marijuana grown elsewhere and the concerns about medicinal marijuana’s contribution to illicit drug channels were rational and therefore constitutional.

“The question before us, however, is not whether it is wise to enforce the statute in these circumstances; rather, it is whether Congress’ power to regulate interstate markets for medicinal substances encompasses the portions of those markets that are sup-plied with drugs produced and consumed locally. Well-settled law controls our answer. . . . In assessing the scope of Congress’ authority under the Commerce Clause, we stress that the task before us is a modest one. We need not determine whether respondents’ activities, taken in the aggregate, substantially affect interstate commerce in fact, but only whether a ‘rational basis’ exists for so concluding. [.  .  .] Given the enforcement difficulties that attend distinguishing between marijuana cultivated locally and marijuana grown elsewhere, [citation omitted] and concerns about diversion into illicit channels, we have no difficulty concluding that Congress had a rational basis for believing that failure to regulate the intrastate manufacture and possession of  marijuana would leave a gaping hole in the CSA. Thus .  .  .  , when it enacted comprehensive legislation to regulate the interstate market in a fungible commodity, Congress was acting well within its authority to ‘make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper’ to regulate commerce . . . among the several States.’ [. . .] That the regulation ensnares some purely intrastate activity is of no moment. As we have done many times before, we refuse to excise individual components of that larger scheme.  .  .  . The congressional judgment that an exemption for such a significant segment of the total market would undermine the orderly enforcement of the entire regulatory scheme is entitled to a strong presumption of validity. Indeed, that judgment is not only rational, but ‘visible to the naked eye.’ ”

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