Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyers: Link Between Federal Raids and National Health Care

Our Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyers were interested to read a TIME Magazine piece recently linking the federal raids on California medical marijuana dispensaries and the president’s Affordable Care Act. doctor.jpg

It seems like a stretch, but apparently, the two are more related than one might think.

One deals with the raids of legally-operating California medical marijuana dispensaries throughout the state. The other has to do with a promise of universal health care throughout the country.

So what could possibly be the connection?

According to reporter Maia Szalavitz, it has to do with a case called Gonzales v. Raich, which was decided in the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005. this was a ruling that was decided 6-3, and has been cited repeatedly by both proponents of the raids on medical marijuana distributors, and commentators debating the merits of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

Here’s what happened in that case:

Angel Raich was a medical marijuana patient. She, as well as another marijuana patient and their grower sued the federal government. They contended that the enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act, or CSA, shouldn’t be used to justify arrest and imprisonment of those legally using and distributing the drug under California law. They argued that because the state had legalized marijuana for medical use, to enforce the CSA against caregivers and patients was unconstitutional.

The argument went a step further in saying that under the Commerce Clause, the scope of the federal government’s power in this matter is limited to regulation of those activities that impact interstate commerce. In her case, Raich was using medical marijuana for her own medical ailments, which her distributor was providing it to her – not selling it outside the state. Therefore, the attorneys said, it had no impact on interstate commerce.

This is a great argument – but unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court disagreed. Some of the Justices did concede that there was a solid, scientific basis to take another look at the federal ban on the use of marijuana for medical purposes, they ruled quite narrowly on the question of commerce. Essentially, they decided that enforcing the ban on medical marijuana in California was an appropriate use of federal government power.

The three dissenting Justices – William Rehnquist, Sandra Day O’Connor and Clarence Thomas – all said essentially that states have a right to implement their own policies, and that personal use of medical marijuana was an acceptable policy. Thomas added that from the very beginning of our country, there is no evidence that would seem to suggest that commerce should include simply possessing a certain good for personal activity when it didn’t involve exchange or trade for value.

This is where the link to the Affordable Care Act comes in. It will be difficult for the court to say that it’s alright for the federal government to stop the use of medical marijuana in the state because the drug can be easily sold outside of the state, but then not require people to purchase health insurance, which has an impact on insurance markets and health care prices across the country.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons why President Obama has been reticent to stop the federal raids on California medical marijuana dispensaries, despite campaign promises to the contrary.

The CANNABIS LAW GROUP offers experienced and aggressive representation to the medical marijuana industry in Southern California– including growers, dispensaries and collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call 714-937-2050 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
Are Medical Marijuana Raids the Price We Must Pay for National Health Care?, By Maia Szalavitz, TIME

More Blog Entries:
California Medical Marijuana: A Legal Quagmire, April 9, 2012, Los Angles Marijuana Lawyer Blog