The Supreme Court gavel bangs: The next nail in the coffin of state’s rights


Like socks with sandals, the band of brothers Hanson and Mac OSX before him, we at YES! Weekly are starting to warm up to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. After the Court’s 6-3 vote last Monday that made the use of medicinal marijuana a crime against US law, Thomas penned a dissenting opinion piece that questioned the actions of both Congress and the Court which will probably be alluded to for years to come in the literature put out by the National Association for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Our man Thomas writes: ‘“By holding that Congress may regulate activity that is neither interstate nor commerce under the Interstate Commerce Clause, the Court abandons any attempt to enforce the Constitution’s limits on federal power’…. In the early days of the Republic, it would have been unthinkable that Congress could prohibit the local cultivation, possession, and consumption of marijuana.’”

He’s not talking about potheads here, but patients who have been prescribed the cannaboid by doctors for alleviation of pain or appetite inducement for maladies ranging from cancer to back trouble. And he’s talking specifically about backyard weed, grown by the users and which is never intended for commerce, interstate or otherwise.

And while there are all sorts of fun reasons to get behind Justice Thomas on this issue, there is also a more serious note to these proceedings, namely the principle of states’ rights. The federal law supercedes any state law, making criminals overnight of those who have been medicating themselves with the leaf under a doctor’s orders.

Twenty percent of the states ‘— Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington ‘— allow salubrious tokes for their people. So the marijuana decision will not immediately affect the state of North Carolina, where any type of pot, medicinal or otherwise, is absolutely illegal. But we would be wise to beware the slippery slope.

Thomas writes: ‘“Congress cannot define the scope of its own power merely by declaring the necessity of its enactments’…. Here, Congress has encroached on States’ traditional police powers to define the criminal law and to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their citizens.’”

States’ rights are considered sacred, especially here in the South where a mandate from Washington, DC caused a mighty uproar about 150 years ago. But in the years since 9-11, these rights are diminishing as the federal government’s role gains power with every congressional session. It is exactly what our founding fathers didn’t want for this nation.

Thomas closes with this: ‘“Our federalist system, properly understood, allows California and a growing number of other States to decide for themselves how to safeguard the health and welfare of their citizens. I would affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals. I respectfully dissent.’”

Right on, brother.