Category Archives: marijuana

Supreme surprise

One of the things that I think is generally a good thing is getting my assumptions challenged now and then. Well, that’s happened to me this past month with regard to the Highest Court of the Land.

Apparently, the term “liberal” and “conservative” are not as meaningful on the Supreme Court as I thought they were, or mean different things than I thought. In the medical marijuana case that I mentioned on June 7Justice John Paul Stevens wrote the opinion, while Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, considered a moderate, penned the dissent, supported by the ailing Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justice Clarence Thomas, part of the conservative wing of the court.

Last week, in the eminent domain case, Justice Stevens, deemed the most liberal on the Court, wrote for the 5-4 majority in favor of the government, while Justice O’Connor again authored the dissenting opinion, saying that the Court abandoned a basic limitation on government power and, in doing so, “washed out any distinction between private and public use of property.” O’Connor said economic development is not a constitutionally permissible reason to take people’s land.

Further, she wrote: “Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms. As for the victims, the government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more. The Founders cannot have intended this perverse result.” O’Connor was supported by the conservative Justice Antonin Scalia and again by Rehnquist and Thomas. I can’t remember the last time I agreed with Rehnquist AND Thomas on a non-unanimous decision twice in one month.

The cautious, mixed Ten Commandments ruling this week adhered more to the traditional liberal/conservative split of the Court.

I was disappointed by the marijuana ruling, and generally pleased by the Ten Commandments decision, but I remain deeply troubled by the eminent domain case. It appears that the underlying assumption in the latter case is that government will always work for the benefit of all, rather than just the “connected,” and I’m suspicious enough of government – all government, however well-meaning – that that chance of greed and corruption driving a land grab is very high. I predict that in a couple decades, this ruling will be overturned when some egregious activities are uncovered.

My regrets to the folks of New London, CT, who have vowed to stay in their houses until the bulldozers come.

Going from pot

I’ve purchased marijuana exactly one time in my life. It was some years ago (note to law enforcement officials: the statute of limitations applies) that a friend of mine, who I knew to be fairly staunchly opposed to ever smoking pot himself, asked me if I knew where to buy some. His uncle had glaucoma, and the scientific research of the time suggested that marijuana could relieve the uncle’s extreme discomfort. He also had some other ailments, and the nephew had hoped that the pot would stir his meager appetite.
So I asked the one person I knew would likely know where to find some marijuana. He sold it to me, I passed it on to my friend (at the same price), and I heard later that the uncle did seem to respond well to the “treatment.”

The interesting thing about Supreme Court rulings (well, interesting to a political science major, which I was) is that their rulings are not phrased as about the issue that gets played in the press (“Court Knocks Pot”) but about more arcane matters. So, in the case decided by the Court on Monday, it’s not so much about medical marijuana, it’s a states’ rights issue, whether Congress had exceeded its authority vis a vis the states regarding medical marijuana.

The old poli sci major finds the federal government’s argument to be strong: state law is generally subservient to federal law, “even as applied to the troubling facts of this case,” as Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the majority, put it. But I find the position stated in Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s dissenting opinion that a state has a right to take care of its citizens even more compelling. If you’ve seen the videos of Angel McClary Raich before treatment, when she could barely move, and after treatment, when she appeared as a normally functioning person, you’d find her, at bare minimum, a sympathetic respondent. And I do believe there is sufficient science to suggest that there are real medical benefits of marijuana.

Which begs the question: if I had it to do over again, would I purchase marijuana for someone in medical need? Let’s put it this way: Montel Williams indicated that he’ll still be using marijuana for his multiple sclerosis, but knows that by saying so, he makes himself a target for prosecution. I wouldn’t SAY that I’d buy it, but…