This has everything to do with states’ right, Stoid - which People are you talking about, after all? The people of the state of Oregon, or the people of the United States as a whole?
The people of Oregon have indicated their desire to permit legalized, physician-assisted suicide. The people of the United States, as a whole, have not embraced this concept.
Recognizing that we are a republic, in which the will of the people is considered to be expressed by acts of the legislature, the federal government legislature has passed the Controlled Substances Act, which forbids non-medical use of certain substances. Federal law trumps state law, when the two conflict. However, federal law may not infringe upon matters that the Constitution does not allow it to tread.
So the questions are these: does the federal government have a general authority to control the use of substances in non-medical settings? Yes, it’s clear that they do. Even though a state may also impose controls on drugs, it’s permissible for the feds to enforce country-wide legislation on this topic.
More to the point: does the federal government have the authority to decide what constitutes medical use?
This is the subject under debate. Oregonians believe that the use of narcotic substances to end a terminally ill life is “medical” – and thus within their ability to regulate. Ashcroft’s Justice Department has taken the position that it is not “medical” and thus falls within the purview of controlling federal law.
Those who believe the federal government’s reach should be limited are typically on the right side of the house; those who champion far-reaching federal authority, typically on the left. This is an interesting twist of roles, and I believe it says a lot about the integrity of a person’s convictions when a former “states rights” advocate is now seen backing away from the position, or, indeed, when a former advocate of federal power is now seen decrying the infringement upon the rights of Oregonians.
I have much respect, in turn, for those who wince and say, “Well, I don’t like it one bit, but it’s Oregon’s right to permit such things,” and for the person on the other side of the aisle who says, “Even though I believe in a person’s right to physician-assisted suicide, if they choose it, it’s really a nation-wide question, and Oregon can’t buck federal law.”
Who has the authority to decide issues like this, Stoid? The state in question, or the federal government?