Gonzales v. Raich

Gonzalez v. Raich: Ninth Circuit ruling held that medical marijuana may be beyond the reach of the Interstate Commerce Clause, Supreme Court held that federal government can still arrest patients and caregivers in States where medical marijuana is legal.

Gonzales v Raich, 2005

In response to DEA agents’ destruction of their medical marijuana plants, two patients and two
caregivers in California brought suit. They argued that applying the Controlled Substances Act to
a situation in which medical marijuana was being grown and consumed locally for no
remuneration in accordance with state law exceeded Congress’s constitutional authority under the
Commerce Clause, which allows the federal government to regulate interstate commerce. In
December 2003, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco agreed, ruling 2-1 that states
are free to adopt medical marijuana laws so long as the marijuana is not sold, transported across
state lines, or used for nonmedical purposes.59 Federal appeal sent the case to the Supreme Court.
The issue before the Supreme Court was whether the Controlled Substances Act, when applied to
the intrastate cultivation and possession of marijuana for personal use under state law, exceeds
Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause. The Supreme Court, in June 2005, reversed the
Ninth Circuit’s decision and held, in a 6-3 decision, that Congress’s power to regulate commerce
extends to purely local activities that are “part of an economic class of activities that have a
substantial effect on interstate commerce.”60
Raich does not invalidate state medical marijuana laws. The decision does mean, however, that
DEA may continue to enforce the CSA against medical marijuana patients and their caregivers,
even in states with medical marijuana programs.
Although Raich was not about the efficacy of medical marijuana or its listing in Schedule I, the
majority opinion stated in a footnote: “We acknowledge that evidence proffered by respondents in
this case regarding the effective medical uses for marijuana, if found credible after trial, would
cast serious doubt on the accuracy of the findings that require marijuana to be listed in
Schedule I.”61 The majority opinion, in closing, notes that in the absence of judicial relief for
medical marijuana users there remains “the democratic process, in which the voices of voters
allied with these respondents may one day be heard in the halls of Congress.”62
Thus, the Supreme Court reminds that Congress has the power to reschedule marijuana, thereby
recognizing that it has accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
Congress, however,
does not appear likely to do so. Neither does the executive branch, which could reschedule
marijuana through regulatory procedures authorized by the Controlled Substances Act. In the
meantime, actions taken by state and local governments continue to raise the issue, as discussed
below.

http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL33211.pdf

The case in which the Supreme Court acknowledged that marijuana has medical use within the United States.

Gonzales v Raich, 2005

<spoiler /><spoiler>

In response to DEA agents’ destruction of their medical marijuana plants, two patients and two
caregivers in California brought suit. They argued that applying the Controlled Substances Act to
a situation in which medical marijuana was being grown and consumed locally for no
remuneration in accordance with state law exceeded Congress’s constitutional authority under the
Commerce Clause, which allows the federal government to regulate interstate commerce. In
December 2003, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco agreed, ruling 2-1 that states
are free to adopt medical marijuana laws so long as the marijuana is not sold, transported across
state lines, or used for nonmedical purposes.59 Federal appeal sent the case to the Supreme Court.
The issue before the Supreme Court was whether the Controlled Substances Act, when applied to
the intrastate cultivation and possession of marijuana for personal use under state law, exceeds
Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause. The Supreme Court, in June 2005, reversed the
Ninth Circuit’s decision and held, in a 6-3 decision, that Congress’s power to regulate commerce
extends to purely local activities that are “part of an economic class of activities that have a
substantial effect on interstate commerce.”60
Raich does not invalidate state medical marijuana laws. The decision does mean, however, that
DEA may continue to enforce the CSA against medical marijuana patients and their caregivers,
even in states with medical marijuana programs.
Although Raich was not about the efficacy of medical marijuana or its listing in Schedule I, the
majority opinion stated in a footnote: “We acknowledge that evidence proffered by respondents in
this case regarding the effective medical uses for marijuana, if found credible after trial, would
cast serious doubt on the accuracy of the findings that require marijuana to be listed in
Schedule I.”61 The majority opinion, in closing, notes that in the absence of judicial relief for
medical marijuana users there remains “the democratic process, in which the voices of voters
allied with these respondents may one day be heard in the halls of Congress.”62
Thus, the Supreme Court reminds that Congress has the power to reschedule marijuana, thereby
recognizing that it has accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
Congress, however,
does not appear likely to do so. Neither does the executive branch, which could reschedule
marijuana through regulatory procedures authorized by the Controlled Substances Act. In the
meantime, actions taken by state and local governments continue to raise the issue, as discussed
below.

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