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Commerce Clause

September 11, 2009 Leave a comment

In our lovely little country, we have three branches. Each are supposed to have oversight over the last, in order to protect the rights of the people. Congress watches over Executive, Judicial watches the laws form Congress, and the Executive watches over the Judicial. But the problem arises when the branches do not do their job, and their oversight does not extend far enough.

Take Medical Marijuana for example. Each state ought to have their own local laws when it comes to legality of drugs. Nowhere in the Constitution is Congress given the power to govern drugs, unless one is very loose about one little bit: The lovely Commerce Clause. The Commerce clause reads as such:

[The Congress shall have power] To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes;

This power seems simple enough as written. Simply put, it states that Congress is set to make sure all States can trade on an even keel, in order to prevent the issue of differing currencies the states had run into previously. However, lawyers seems to be unable to leave something simple, and must extract every ounce of meaning from even the shortest sections of laws and documents. From this ability to derive meaning from random ideas comes the true power of Congress.

Back to our point about Medical Marijuana. Say a State legalizes Pot for very sick people (cough, California). The compassionate use act allows patients with severe disabilities and diseases to partake of Marijuana in order to pacify their pain. Now Congress comes along, and decides to regulate California’s choice into the ground. They deny California’s ability to decide for themselves, using the Commerce Clause as their tool. Under the Commerce Clause, Gonzales v. Raich decided that the Federal Government did not recognize Medical Marijuana, and denied California the ability to choose their own opinion. Their rationale for this? If a single exception to the law comes up, it can lead to illegal market influence from the legal Pot coming from California.

I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with this, so instead of drawing a conclusion of this, I’ll ask my few readers for their opinions on the Commerce Clause. Do you think it gives Congress too much power? Why or why not?