Defending the virtues of liberty, free markets, and civilization... plus some commentary on the passing scene.

Freedom's Fidelity

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Supreme Court and Medical Marijuana

The Supreme Court's decision on the medical marajiauna case is rather dissapointing. Look, I pretty much support the decriminalization of all drugs. Yes ALL DRUGS, including heroin, crystal meth, coke, whatever. All of it should be legal. I know that sounds radical and you are probably imagining a society of people walking around with needles hanging out of their arms and a collective case of wicked meth mouth.

I, on the other hand, imagine a society with significantly less gun violence, shootings, gang activity and murders. I also imagine significantly less crowded prisons holding actual violent criminals. You know the kind that serially molest children that we continually parole so they can molest more children? Parole is a concept that was conceived to deal with overcrowding, because we decide to lock up a kid peddling a dime bag on a corner - a person involved in VOLUNTARY EXCHANGE - we must neccessarily release other convicted criminals to make room. Too often those are violent criminals that commit their crimes again and again. Would you feel safer in a street full of drug dealers and users or violent criminals and rapists? Perhaps neither choice is particularly appealing, but that is the trade-off we must make. A guy on the loose who would molest children is much scarier than one that might offer to sell that child a dime bag. And guess what, about 30 minutes after the police cuff and haul off the corner dealer, he's replaced by another kid and neither the drug supply or anyone's drug habits have been materially changed.

In any big city the vast majority of murders are caused by gang violence. Stray bullets, innocent bystanders, mistaken identity, and gang wars. And the gangs are fighting over drug turf, because drug turf is money. Legalize drugs would put the gangs almost out of business as they would have significantly less to fight over. Do you really think it's over colors other than green? Would you know who Al Capone was if not for prohibition?

That's my short argument for decriminalization of drugs - It would cause a reduction of crime, keep actual violent criminals in jail longer (lets keep child molesters in there for life since we have the room now) and stop ruining whole communities and countless lives that are ravaged by gangs. We might see an increase in addicts, but at least they would be imposing the costs on themselves, instead of drug dealers who impose violent costs on whole communities.

Of course my argument above is irrelevant to the Supreme Court decision on medical marijuana. The role of the judiciary is not to make rulings on policy based on good intentions or to try and cause a 'good outcome' on behalf of society. That is the role of the legislature. However, I am shaking my head as I read through the opinions of this case which is really about states rights.

Essentially the majority opinion said that this falls under the commerce clause and therefore federal law trumps state law (they did not rule medical marijuana laws unconstitutional) You see, even though the marijuana in question was grown in the woman's backyard, used by her, never sold and never left the state, the majority opinion said it was possible that this could effect interstate commerce. As Scalia wrote:

"Marijuana that is grown at home and possessed for personal use is never more than an instant from the interstate market - and this is so whether or not the possession is for medicinal use or lawful use under the laws of a particular state,"
How dissapointing that Scalia and Kennedy, with an opportunity to further decentralize Washington's power, decided to join their more liberal colleagues and roll back the federalist progress of the last decade or so. The problem with the majority's opinion is that it is so vague that it is hard to think of anything that is not an "instant from an interstate market." Perhaps my slippery slope argument is a bit fluffy, and devoid of any legal reasoning, but I still find it compelling. Our system of government is designed to favor states rights, this ruling flies in the face of that and just put a lot more power in the hands of Congress.


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