A California state law had legalized marijuana possession, cultivation, and consumption for personal medical use. Federal agents arrested a woman who used marijuana for medical purposes, saying that the federal Controlled Substances Act preempted California’s medical marijuana statute and applied to the purely in-state production and consumption of the drug.
Quite plainly, the Raich case was outside CRC’s typical subject matter of land use and environmental law. Indeed, the law at issue is not in any way progressive and, for this reason, every other progressive organization that weighed in on the case supported the plaintiffs seeking permission to legally use marijuana for medical purposes.
CRC made the uncomfortable choice to side with the Bush administration and the Ashcroft Justice Department for a very important reason: the stakes in the Raich case were enormous. The Commerce Clause is the foundation for federal protection for civil rights, workers’ rights and the environment. If the Court ruled that the federal government lacked constitutional authority to comprehensively regulate the marijuana distribution market, many important federal statutes would also have been in danger.
On June 6, 2005, the Supreme Court held that Congress can constitutionally regulate the intrastate cultivation, distribution, and possession of marijuana for personal medicinal use because Congress could reasonably conclude that this activity substantially affects interstate drug markets. The case upholds a broad reading of Congress's power under the Commerce Clause.
Read CRC's news release on the ruling here.
Read a San Fransico Chronicle article on the ruling here.
Read a New Republic Online op-ed by CRC's Doug Kendall and Jennifer Bradley on Raich and other cases here.
Read a Washington Post article on the case here.
1. Whether the Controlled Substances Act, 21 U.S. C. 801 et seq., exceeds Congress's power under the Commerce Clause as applied to the intrastate cultivation and possession of marijuana for purported personal "medicinal" use or to the distribution of marijuana without charge for such use.
In August 2004, CRC filed a brief in this case:
Client: Community Rights Counsel
Issues: Commerce Clause authority
Brief Filed: August 12, 2004
CRC's Amicus Brief (PDF)
- Brief for the Petitioners (PDF)
- Brief for Respondents (PDF)
Supreme Court Opinions (all are on PDF format):
- Majority per Justice Stevens
- Justice Scalia, concurring
- Justice O'Connor, dissenting
- Justice Thomas, separate dissent