Tuesday, May 26, 2009

U.S. Supreme Court Decides Not To Decide—Again

A while back I wrote a column, U.S. Supreme Court Decides Not To Decide, about the case of a California man whose medical marijuana was taken by local authorities who then refused to return it even though the man was a legal medical marijuana patient under California law. That case made it to the U.S. Supreme Court, who refused to hear it. Case closed, federal law does not trump a state’s medical marijuana law. Chalk one up for the good guys.

Well it’s happened again. Back in 2006, two counties in California that had refused to issue medical marijuana ID cards filed suit. They claimed they didn’t have to issue these cards because it was a violation of federal law. They lost their case in the state superior court and in the state appeals court. The state supreme court refused to hear their appeal, so they took it to the U.S. Supreme Court. Funny thing, just like the previous case, the highest court in the land decided against hearing this one too. Case closed, yet again. Lots of taxpayers’ money wasted, yet again. (Good thing California has so much extra money to throw around.)

So what does this second landmark non-decision mean? Basically, the same as the first one. Let me say it again, just so we’re clear: federal law does not trump a state’s medical marijuana law. The U.S. Supreme Court has now made this point quite clearly and unambiguously. Twice. The immediate effect of this law will (or at least should) be that San Diego, San Bernadino, and the seven other California counties that have refused to comply with state law must now do so. In theory. In practice however, I’m not so sure it will make much of a difference. The elected officials in these 9 counties quite clearly do not want to honor the people of California’s decision to allow medical marijuana. I’d put my money on them delaying and wasting more taxpayers’s money on additional pointless legal battles. As we all know very well, drug warriors do not give up easily. Things like laws and supreme court decisions are of little consequence when keeping drugs out of the hands of sick people is the issue. I mean after all, what kind of message would it send the children if we allowed sick and dying people to take any drug they want to just because it makes them feel better? If sick people want to feel better, let them take the more expensive and less safe drugs offered by the pharmaceutical companies just like everyone else. Our children need to know that this is the only reasonable alternative in a civilized society. (As far as I can tell, a civilized society, according to our government, is one in which the government, rather than the people or the medical community, decides what medications its citizens are permitted to take.)

There’s not much more to say about this, other than it’s another small step in the right direction. While it may have little immediate impact in those California counties, it does send a message to the rest of the country. Perhaps some of the people in states hesitant to pass medical marijuana laws because they conflict with federal law will reconsider. Assuming of course that such reasoning is sincere and not just an excuse to avoid doing the right thing. Regardless, it’s one less leg for the prohibitionists to stand on. Knock out a few more legs, and they will hopefully collapse under their own (dead) weight. I know, I’m the eternal pessimist. But perhaps, just maybe, there is finally the tiniest bit of very faint light at the end of the seemingly endless tunnel.

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