Smoke and Mirrors: Watched Pot

Smoke and Mirrors: Watched Pot
Posted by CN Staff on June 21, 2005 at 08:40:20 PT
By Hendrik Hertzberg 
Source: New Yorker Magazine
USA -- If hard cases make bad law, as a three-hundred-year-old courthouse saying has it, then the case of Gonzales et al. v. Raich et al. ought to have been easy and good. The case is—or appears to be—about marijuana and illness. On one side is Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, whose et al. consists of the massed power of the United States government. A.G.A.G. et al. take the position that because Cannabis sativa is irredeemably wicked and has no legitimate uses, medical or otherwise, the possession of it, to say nothing of its cultivation, distribution, or sale, is quite properly forbidden by federal law. On the other side is Angel Raich, a thirty-nine-year-old mother of two from Oakland, California.
Raich does not have cancer, aids, multiple sclerosis, or epilepsy—the big-ticket ailments whose symptoms can often be palliated by marijuana. But she does have more than her share of physical troubles, including an inoperable (though nonmalignant) brain tumor. Pharmaceutical remedies having proved unavailing, her physician suggested marijuana, which has worked well enough to afford her something like a normal life.Raich’s et al. consists of a couple of anonymous gardeners who tended the plants whose buds she baked into cookies, and a second California woman, Diane Monson, who grows her own, with which, on her doctor’s advice, she relieves her otherwise intractable back spasms. Monson did grow her own, at any rate, until agents of the Drug Enforcement Agency came to her house and chopped down her plants, all six of them, with machetes while she, Barbara Fritchie-like, read aloud the text of Proposition 215, the popular initiative by which California, nine years ago, approved the medical use of marijuana. You might say, therefore, that Raich’s et al. also includes, in spirit, the millions of Californians who voted for Prop 215, plus the voters and legislators of the ten other states where medical-marijuana laws have been enacted, plus the Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of HIV Medicine, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Nurses Association, the American Public Health Association, the California Medical Association, the Lymphoma Foundation of America, the New York State Association of County Health Officials, and the Medical Society of the State of New York, plus peer-reviewed publications such as The Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine—all of which have attested to marijuana’s medical usefulness.Earlier this month, by a vote of six to three, the Supreme Court went with the A.G. and his et al., leaving Raich and hers in the lurch. But the ruling had nothing to do with marijuana’s wickedness (which none of the four written opinions, two on each side, took seriously) and little to do with its efficacy in relieving suffering (which all four took for granted). To make sense of Gonzales v. Raich, a Supreme Court Decoder Ring, available with three box tops from Original Intent Cereal, would be a valuable accessory. The ruling, you see, was all about the Constitution’s commerce clause, the one that authorizes Congress to “regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States.” The majority asserts demurely that its ruling is “a modest one.” The Justices do not say that the federal ban on marijuana is a good idea, or that it makes sense to punish the sick for using it, or that a sick person growing her own pot in her own back yard is engaged in Commerce among the several States. It does not even say that the aggregate production of back-yard medicinal-marijuana gardens would “substantially affect interstate commerce.” All it says is that “a ‘rational basis’ exists for so concluding”—whether or not a more compelling “rational basis” exists for concluding the opposite. But this is enough to sic the feds and their machetes on Ms. Monson’s pot patch.Gonzales v. Raich jumbled the Court’s usual ideological battle lines. The four moderate-to-almost-liberal Justices—David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and John Paul Stevens, who wrote the majority opinion—ended up, confusingly, on the “anti-marijuana” side. The two softish states’-rights conservatives were divided: Sandra Day O’Connor wrote the main “pro-marijuana” dissent, while Anthony Kennedy went the other way. The hard right split 2-1: the Chief, William Rehnquist, and Clarence Thomas (pro); Antonin Scalia (anti). All very puzzling to civilians, but Decoder Ring-wearing Court observers speculate that the true agenda of the majority (especially its moderate members) was to slow the Court’s “federalist” (that is, antifederalist) drift toward chipping away at the regulatory powers of the national government, while the minority’s purpose was to accelerate that drift. Kennedy’s well-known hostility to pot seems to have trumped his dislike of federal regulation. Scalia’s concurring opinion (which, with characteristic modesty, he described as “more nuanced” than Stevens’s) was devoted largely to explaining why his concurrence should not be taken to suggest that he likes big gummint.The least muddled opinion was Justice Thomas’s separate dissent, certain passages of which (e.g., “In the early days of the Republic, it would have been unthinkable that Congress could prohibit the local cultivation, possession, and consumption of marijuana”) could have been written by Justice Cheech or Justice Chong. Thomas’s private views on marijuana are unknown, but if he had his way, as expressed in this particular opinion, any federal interference with homegrown, home-smoked pot, whether for medical or recreational purposes, would be ruled out as an unconstitutional usurpation of the states’ powers “to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their citizens.” But, then, almost any federal effort to protect those things would be similarly inadmissable. Hello to bong hits, but goodbye to workplace safety, environmental regulations, and Medicare. Thomas’s view has the virtue of consistency. But consistency is not the same as wisdom.Stevens, in the final paragraph of his opinion, came close to begging Congress to do something about the heartlessness of using federal cops to harass sick people whose suffering marijuana eases. He noted that there are bureaucratic procedures that would allow marijuana to be reclassified as a drug with legitimate medical uses. “But perhaps even more important than these legal avenues,” he added, “is the democratic process, in which the voices of voters allied with these respondents may one day be heard in the halls of Congress.”Last Wednesday, as if on cue, the House of Representatives took up for the third straight year the bipartisan Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment, which would deny the Department of Justice funds to surveil, arrest, or prosecute patients in states that have medical-marijuana laws. For the third straight year, it failed, though the margin of defeat this time was smaller than it was last year, and last year it was smaller than it had been the year before. Someday the cruelty of the “drug war” will give way to laws and policies based on reason and justice. But that day is painfully slow in coming, and no drug, legal or not, can take the pain away. Source: New Yorker Magazine (NY)Author: Hendrik Hertzberg Published: June 27, 2005 - IssueCopyright: 2005 The Conde Nast Publications Inc.Contact: themail newyorker.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:Angel Raich v. Ashcroft News Marijuana Decision Was a Bummer Case Addles Supreme Court
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Comment #11 posted by global_warming on June 21, 2005 at 16:31:15 PT
"the Drug Enforcement Agency came to her house and chopped down her plants, all six of them, with machetes"...Wow, can you imagine that tense moment..grown men, in thick leather boots, heavily armed, chopped down, with machetes, six (6) plants, who some women with brain tumors, who did not have strength to get out of her wheel chair, and what could she have done?She used what precious little life energy, to stand up before the highest court in the world.Like the article starts with,.."USA -- If hard cases make bad law," this was a bad decision, and it will, come back to bite Justice Stevens, in his eternal and Godless butt.Poor Justice Stevens, should I pray for his wretched soul, or should I be reminded, that Justice Stevens, is only a puppet, and his only guilt, is that his comfortable life, is constantly challenged, by a body of corruption, and the deals and promises, that no mortal may entertain, reflect all of our compromises.That old Baptist preacher, in the South, has been found guilty, I have not read all of the forensic material, that has brought this penalty, 'killing young and innocent people, can never be pardoned, certainly not, for civilized human beings, and, is not civilization, closely tied to understanding?Like 'young and innocent, the sick need help, not heavy handed justice, the old are returning home, without the benefit of the maternal womb, is it possible, that people, who are old and sick, might enter the journey home, without the governments help, or persecution?
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Comment #10 posted by Dankhank on June 21, 2005 at 13:38:03 PT
Poll results ...
Now 69% for decrim ...gotta love that number .....
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Comment #9 posted by FoM on June 21, 2005 at 13:13:14 PT
House Delaying Vote on Medical Marijuana Bill
June 21, 2005 
 PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- The House is delaying a vote today on a bill that would protect medical marijuana users from prosecution.The House plans to take up the measure tomorrow instead.The scheduled vote is being delayed because the House Finance Committee has scheduled a vote on the budget for this afternoon.The Senate approved a medical marijuana bill two weeks ago. Governor Carcieri has said he plans to veto the legislation if it reaches his desk.The U-S Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that people who use marijuana for medical purposes can still be prosecuted under federal law -- even if their home states permit their marijuana use.
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Comment #8 posted by AOLBites on June 21, 2005 at 12:40:52 PT
protest alert: Cali
Kottonmouth Kings Vs Supreme Court	
06/21/05(Kerosene Media) The AAMC (American Alliance for Medical Cannabis) and Suburban Noize Recording Artists the Kottonmouth Kings have joined forces for an upcoming demonstration and protest on June 25th in West Los Angeles, CA at the US Federal Building.The protest is a direct reaction to the recent Supreme Court ruling that allows the government to block doctors from prescribing marijuana for patients suffering from pain caused by cancer or other serious illnesses. In a 6-3 decision, the court ruled the federal prosecution of pot users under the federal Controlled Substances Act was constitutional. The closely watched case was an appeal by the Bush administration in a ruling involving two seriously ill California women.Ten states, including California, have laws allowing marijuana use for medical purposes. California's law, passed in 1996 under Proposition 215, permits people to grow, smoke or obtain marijuana for medical purposes upon the recommendation of a doctor.[see for more]
Kottonmouth Kings Vs Supreme Court
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Comment #7 posted by FoM on June 21, 2005 at 12:31:38 PT
Poll: Should Marijuana Be Decriminalized? 
Current Results: Percentage of 828 Votes Yes -- 567 -- 68% No -- 222 -- 27% I'm not sure -- 39 -- 5% Please Vote:
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Comment #6 posted by FoM on June 21, 2005 at 12:22:55 PT
I've said I am not a writer but I could say this is what they said and we need things to change. That is simple anymore. Get angry, get vocal say something that will stir our politicians from their slumber.
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Comment #5 posted by Sam Adams on June 21, 2005 at 12:13:13 PT
The RI TV station also has an MJ decrim poll: an aside on the New Yorker article - why do we have to continually read this wishy-washy BS:"Someday the cruelty of the “drug war” will give way to laws and policies based on reason and justice. But that day is painfully slow in coming, and no drug, legal or not, can take the pain away."No, the drug war isn't going to magically "give way". The GOVERNMENT must act! Only the GOVERNMENT is responsible for the current state of affairs - NO ONE ELSE! Why does virtually every media outlet have this built-in worship of government? The headline should read "Congress votes to arrest patients again" and then present a list of NY state reps and how they voted. We can't just wish the laws away, we must force back the cruel hand of tyranny, and it's the media's direct responsiblity to help.As a patient, this guy's article is completely worthless to me, he can take his phony sympathy and stick it where the sun don't shine.
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on June 21, 2005 at 11:10:28 PT
I sure hope it goes our way which is the right way. This is insane to fight us this way. People are more important then big business.
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Comment #3 posted by Taylor121 on June 21, 2005 at 11:06:30 PT
The House
The Rhode Island House MUST pass this bill so it is veto proof. The governor isn't going to budge.
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on June 21, 2005 at 09:39:24 PT
News Brief from News Channel 10
House To Take Up Medical Marijuana Act Today June 21, 2005PROVIDENCE -- A bill that would protect medical marijuana users from prosecution is scheduled to come before the House of Representatives Tuesday afternoon. The House debate comes two weeks after the Senate approved the measure by a 34-2 vote.Gov. Don Carcieri has said he plans to veto the legislation if it reaches his desk.The U.S. Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that people who use marijuana for medical purposes can still be prosecuted under federal law -- even if their home states permit their marijuana use. The House Health, Education and Welfare Committee passed the bill earlier this month.
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on June 21, 2005 at 08:48:19 PT
Philadelphia Daily News: Specter Favors Rx Grass
By Dan Gross Published: June 21, 2005Arlen Specter says he "may introduce legislation" in the Senate in favor of medical marijuana.The U.S. senator, who has long supported the use of human stem cells for disease research, told Your Humble Narrator yesterday that he's in favor of a state's right to decide whether to allow its doctors to prescribe marijuana.Specter himself, who is battling Hodgkin's disease, could be a candidate for medical marijuana use.The Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that federal agents could arrest people who use doctor-prescribed marijuana in states that have authorized it, including California and Oregon.Medical research has proven the drug successful in reducing pain and nausea in people with cancer and other diseases.Specter's remarks to the Daily News came before a speech at the Loews Hotel (12th & Market), where he was honored by the Philadelphia Bar Association.He vowed during his speech to beat his cancer. His spirits were up, and he joked several times about the Bar Association medal, which disappeared after rolling under a row of tables when it was to be handed to him.The medal was later found by a Loews staffer and Bar Association Chancellor Andrew Chirls presented it to Specter, none the worse for wear.
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