Pubdate: Fri, 27 Sep 2002
Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel (CA)
Copyright: 2002 Santa Cruz Sentinel
Author: James Merritt


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 


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