How can SCOTUS allow the feds to regulate non-interstate marijuana?

I am curious to see if someone can explain, in simple language fit for a snowboarder, just how exactly the SC found that the feds had cause, legally, to prosecute marijuana production and consumption that does not cross state lines?

I thought that the federal government was empowered by the Constitution to regulate commerce between the states, and that any powers not specifically granted did not exist.

So how can the US gov’t do this? Is this a clear usurpation of state’s rights? And more importantly, if it is, what should we as citizens do about it? Should we stand meekly by? Write letters?

My own thoughts at the moment (and I will admit up front that I may not be as educated or as knowledgable as I think I am) are that the Supreme Court just overstepped their bounds and granted wide-ranging powers to the federal government. This fiat should be shouted down, and the usual justifications of “compelling interest” shown the door. There will always be a compelling interest to violate our guaranteed rights. But sooner or later, we will look at ourselves as a country and wonder: just how much freedom do we have left, and exactly what is it?

I stand foursquare behind a fairly liberal interpretation of the Constitutional authority of the government to regulate interstate commerce. But this decision troubles me.

Forget the ‘interstate’ part for a moment. But if someone grows and smokes their own weed, how exactly is that ‘commerce’?

And from the POV of the Commerce Clause, how does the pot someone grows and smokes themselves differ from the tomatoes I grow in my garden for my personal consumption?

As Justice Thomas said, it appears that “the Federal Government may now regulate quilting bees, clothes drives and potluck suppers throughout the 50 states.” I’m not a big Clarence Thomas fan, but is he off base? If the reach of the decision rests on the Commerce Clause, it’s hard to see how that would be so.

Here’s the text of the Supremes’ decision..

Were there concerns that some individual states were moving toward legalization?

I remember first hearing about Wickard. Barry Goldwater discusses it in passing in The Conscience of a Conservative. It seemed outrageous to me then, and as I’ve made my personal journey from Goldwater conservative to the Democratic wing of the Democratic party, it’s never ceased to seem excessive. I’m kinda stunned that this particular Court would cite Wickard with approval, and not even try to limit its scope somewhat.

AFAIAC, the natural way to semi-legalize marijuana is to allow for individuals to grow it for themselves and give it away to friends, but to ban the buying and selling of marijuana. ISTM that, over time, this would essentially end any commercial market in dope. What the Supremes have essentially decided is that the government’s free to decide that wouldn’t work, as the basis of the Commerce Clause’s applicability.

Thanks for the info, RT. I was not aware of this decision. I am surprised that this rationalization passes for a legal decision.

But now I am confused over something specific to this recent decision: since there is no interstate market for marijuana, it being a prohibited substance, how can the non-regulated personal production and consumption of marijuana be said to affect regulated interstate commerce in said commodity?

On to the larger issue: the Wickard decision seems along the lines to me of “compelling interest”, another legal doctrine that I consider to be dangerous and overbearing. Am I wrong to draw these decisions as similiar?

Assuming the worst, then: what recourse do we have if SCOTUS were to hand down a decision saying that police everywhere have the right to enter our homes, whenever they want? Am I legally right or wrong to resist the officer’s entry?

RT, I very much agree with you. I’m glad we made peace, brother. It is heartening to see a modern liberal championing civil liberty and individual freedom. Please accept my sincere gratitude and admiration.

I’ve made it through most of the decision (thank you for that link), and now I have another question:

By the courts own reasoning, can we reasonably conclude that the arrest and imprisonment of a drug dealer would be illegal, since there is a “rational basis” to believe that doing so would limit access to the supply of marijuana, thus driving the price up, making it more profitable and more lucrative (and heavily guarded) enterprise? Since there is rational basis to believe that this will hamper Congress efforts, thru the CSA, to regulate and control marijuana, isn’t the law self-defeating?

Do laws need to be rational, or can we just have laws?

This decision troubles me.

I believe it’s absolutely correct if Wickard is correct. To reach a different conclusion, they would have needed to ignore stare decisis and overrule Wickard.

I think Wickard was wrong, as are the whole bunch of New Deal era Commerce Clause decisions.

But see, guys – you can’t have it both ways. If the Supreme Court had the power to decide back then that the Commerce Clause means something that the people who wrote it never would have imagined the words meaning… then they have the power to, in effect, substitute their version of the Constitution in any time they feel like it.

With this decision, I see a lot of liberal voices raised in protest – but they are protesting the result they don’t like, not the process that was used to reach it… and the process is the problem. If you’ve stood by cheering the Supreme Court over the years as it has twisted the Constitution’s words into new interpretations, and said nothing because you LIKED the new interpretations, I think it is absolutely intellectually dishonest of you to now complain because there’s a result you don’t like.

I dislike this decision, too, but my dislike of the Animatronic Constitution School of Thought dates back quite a ways. In some ways, I like this result: marijuana should be illegal, and I think “medical” marijuana is a crock. So strictly om results, I should be pleased. But I’m not, because the ability of a state to decide for itself the issue of marijuana use is important; it’s not for me, but for the people of California, to decide how California treats its marijuana users. That’s an important principle, and it’s been vitiated by this decision.

But this is not an aberration - it’s what happens when you cheer the Court on every time it substitutes its own views for simply reading the damn words.

The rational basis test is applied by asking if there is a rational basis for the law the legislature crafted, not asking if there is a rational basis for a different law. No legislature has said that “…arrest and imprisonment of a drug dealer would be illegal…” so that proposition is not weighed under the rational basis test.

Many different laws on a single subject, with different goals and results, would all pass the rational basis test.

For the record, I like practically nothing about the New Deal. It was a grand wealth redistribution scheme. The judicial complicity in that travesty was no better than in this new one.

I absolutely agree that the real issue here is not marijuana, but the larger scope of the decision, especially re:Wickard, and the question of what recourse do we have when our highest authority, who’s decision are enforcable at the end of a gun, errs morally and legally, as I believe has happened here.

I now have read enough of the decision (just a few pages left) to know that I don’t like the quasi-logic and self-justification that I am reading. But I don’t know what to do, exactly.

My thanks for the info and answers so far. I’m very interested in others’ views on this issue. Would it now take a specific act of Congress to make it clear that it WAS NOT regulating this specifically? Would that be legal?

Of course.

The basic issue here was Congress’ authority to regulate marijuana. The state has made marijuana, under some circumstances, legal. Can Congress still criminalize it?

The case was about resolving the question about Congress’ powers to criminalize marijuana under the Commerce Clause, when the marijuana in question was home-grown and never sold across state lines.

If Congress chooses not to criminalize it, there’s no conflict here.

Personal, private possession and use of marijuana in a person’s home is already legal in Alaska. The State Supreme court has repeatedly invalidated any laws which criminalized personal, private possession based on the right to privacy expressed in the state constituion. See Ravin v. State of Alaska.

But if my understanding is correct, part of what this decision would mean is that Alaska can go jump in a lake with regard to what that state wants to do about the criminalization of marijuana. The fed says it’s illegal, so it’s illegal EVERYWHERE ALL THE TIME NO EXCEPTIONS.

Your state constitution matters naught. The wishes of your citizenry to live as they please behind their state’s borders matters naught.

If the DEA wants to mount a significant presence in the state to arrest persons engaged in personal use, they have the legal authority to do so. But the state is not required to enforce federal law, and the Alaska State Troopers have said they will not enforce it, though some localities will. In addition, the FBI has said this will not result in any increase in prosecution of medical marijuna users in the state:

And I assume you were just as outraged over Romer v. Evans and Lawrence v. Texas and Casey v. Planned Parenthood and Roe v. Wade - right?

No matter how much I hate the outcome, I think the decision is correct.

Fact is, Congress has clearly passed a law that unambiguously says marijuana is very, very, very illegal. I think that law is completely wrong, just like the Prohibition amendment was. The solution is to (convince Congress to) repeal the law, not to try circumventing it with loopholes or exceptions or convoluted interpretations.

…and some states have passed laws making it legal. When a state and the federal government disagree the state is supposed to win out, unless we are talking about powers specifically given to the federal government by the constitution. Marijuana isn’t covered in the constitution so the states should be able to do what they please.

Well, abortion isn’t covered in the Constitution either, explicitly. Neither is sodomy. And we all know what happened to those state laws.