Monday, November 29, 2004

11/29 Washington Journal - Medical Marijuana

Rob Kampia, Exec. Dir. of the Marijuana Policy Project, is talking about the lady (Angel Raich) that needs to smoke pot every two hours in order to get through life. She has an inoperable brain tumor, scoliosis, and other problems. Rob is saying that the question before the Supreme Court is whether Congress has the constitutional authority to ban all uses of marijuana, including medical use, even when that activity does not involve interstate commerce. Specifically, the question is whether a person should have the right to grow their own pot when they have the backing of their doctor and the laws of their state.

Rob's position is this: if the concept of restricting Congressional power to activities involving interstate commerce is to have any meaning at all, it cannot apply to a sitation such as someone growing marijuana for personal medical use.

So David Evans, Executive Director of the Drug Free Schools Coalition, is saying that letting states to allow people to use pot medically would create chaos. "Go through the approval system... if we have each state deciding what is and what is not a medicine we're going to have chaos; we will not have a consistent, science-based approach to medicine approval."

First of all, though, the issue isn't whether giving Congress power over this activity will lead to chaos. The issue is whether it would be Constitutionally valid for Congress to have power over something like this.

So even though Dave-bo isn't saying it, I think his argument must be that allowing people to grow pot for their own medical use would have serious implications for interstate commerce, and that's why Congress should be able to ban it.

So I guess the real question is: how do you define whether an activity involves interstate commerce?

To which Rob says: If growing pot for your own medical use is interstate commerce, then everything is interstate commerce; if you are going to say that then Congress has power over everything that anyone does.

What can Dave-bo say to this? I guess his point is that growing greens for personal use is a very specific situation which comprimises the national drug approval system, and so it would be possible to give Congress power over that activity without irrationaly expanding their power to include all activities in general.

So then the question becomes this: Does the activity in question have to specifically involve interstate commerce? Or is it enough for the activity in question to affect interstate commerce indirectly?

So it boils down to how you define interstate commerce, at least in terms of how the Supreme Court is going to decide things.

Now Dave-bo is complaining that Rob's organization wants to legalize marijuana. Which is basically irrelevant in arguing the merits of the legal case, so minus 2 points for D-bomb because he's changing the whole subject of the debate.

Oooh, this was a great question by a caller from California: "The Declaration of Independence talks about the pursuit of happiness being a god-given, inalienable right. Note, not 'the wise pursuit of happiness', and certainly not 'the government approved pursuit of happiness.' Doesn't a right that must be approved by the government cease to be a right, and therefore isn't drug prohibition, like alcohol prohibition, profoundly unamerican?" Schnap!

Dave-bo's response: "I don't see anything in the Constitution which says we need to have chaos in our medical system." Blah.

One problem with debates like this is that there are several questions being argued over, but comments about each question bleed together, and the different issues are never articulated. So here are the different issues at stake here:

1) Should Congress have the power to ban the medical usage of marijuana?
2) Is banning marijuana unconstitutional in general?
3) Is banning marijuana morally correct, regardless of what the constitution says?

Questions 1 and 2 are not really moral questions, they are matters of legal logic.
Question 3 is a moral issues, regardless of what historical documents and legal decisions may say.

Now Dave-bo is talking about how Rob got arrested for growing marijuana when he was in college at Penn state. That's just a low blow. David Evans just took this civilized debate and flushed it down the toilet. Nice work Dave-bo. Classy.

1 comment:

Sam Well said...

Is it valid (or possible) to debate a law on purely legalistic terms, without considering the application of the reason for its existence? That's the sort of strict constructionism that many look for in judges, which has always seemed contradictory to me. Concerning the Supreme Court, the president wants a constructionist provided that the justice shares his moral take on the world which will guide his constructionism. There's something false about saying that a justice can rule dispassionately one way or the other about something like abortion, or even the rights of the people in Guantanamo. Likewise, Rob may claim to be arguing in favor of sweet dolja on dry constitutional terms - but he's also talking a lot about people suffering from brain tumors and the relief that a nug of New Brunswick dank brings them. I think that basely legal victories are Pyrrhic triumphs - they lead to backlash and social stalemate. It would be better if people always avowedly argued on the level of morality and justice. Rob should nail this guy on that level