An Assembly of Pieces

James Anderson Merritt's piecemeal thoughts and observations, and the occasional attempt to put some of the pieces together.
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All material except cited quotations Copyright (C) 2004-2008 by James Anderson Merritt. All rights reserved.
Monday, September 30, 2002

In the aftermath of the DEA raid on nearby WoMen's Alliance for Medical Marijuana, and in the atmosphere that led to the nationally infamous pot-giveaway at the Santa Cruz City Hall, I wrote yet another letter to the Santa Cruz Sentinel. This time, I talked about the constitutional invalidity of the drug war. They published the following text:

Federal law invalid

Your Sept. 18 editorial acknowledges that many medical-marijuana advocates see this as a states’ rights issue. "Not so fast," you say, reminding readers that "states’ rights" were also asserted to justify racial segregation during the civil rights era. I see a big difference, however.

For me, the key issue of medical marijuana isn’t whether state law "trumps" federal law whenever both could be valid. Rather, it is what to do when federal law is invalid, restricting freedom in areas where the Constitution gives the U.S. government no authority. The Controlled Substances Act 21 USC 13, Sec. 801, appears to be such a law.

The constitution grants no explicit authority or powers to approve or prohibit food and drugs, and negligible authority over commerce that does not cross state lines. Yet the law prohibits "Schedule I" drugs, including marijuana, declaring them as having no legitimate value even as medicine. It also defines all drug trade as "interstate commerce," subject to federal control. Both declarations are convenient fictions.

Whenever the Constitution is silent in any given area, the Ninth and 10th Amendments state clearly that the matter must be left to the states or the people, respectively.

At present, it seems that only Libertarians actively insist that federal prohibition of "controlled substances" exceeds constitutional authority. In the past, eighth-grade civics students learned enough about the Constitution to recognize the Controlled Substances Act as invalid. What happened?



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