If there is one issue that will unravel the United States in the 21st century, it will be the exact same issue that unraveled it in the 19th century—states’ rights.

Putting aside all personal feelings about some of the issues of our time like energy, abortion and medicinal marijuana, you must decide who holds proper jurisdiction for regulating such matters.

The Federal Government was never intended to be all things to all people. Yet, the Federal Government is worse than a mere over-helpful institution. Under control by a one party Zebra that goes by the two names of “Democrat” and “Republican”, it decides what it wants, when it wants it.

The case in point is the Supreme Court verdict on medicinal marijuana, U.S. v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers’ Cooperative, No. 00-151.

The verdict shut down public distribution centers for medical marijuana. This is a public health issue that does not belong in Federal court.

As a candidate, Dubya spoke a lot about giving power back to the states. Letting states handle their own affairs allows for a smaller and more efficient Federal government, he said on many occasions. Then the issue became marijuana and Bush decided that the Justice Department needed his expressed written support against the voters and legislatures of California, Oregon, Alaska, Maine, Washington, Hawaii and Arizona.

“In the case of the Controlled Substances Act,”, writes Justice Clarence Thomas, “the statute reflects a determination that marijuana has no medical benefits worthy of an exception…no currently accepted medical use.”

The Court relied on a 30 year old controlled substances act to overrule the citizens and the legislature of the State of California. They relied on a reactionary law and gave themselves medical licenses before issuing the opinion.

It’s hard to believe that the Federal government would overrule the decisions of California’s government because it would reflect badly on nearly half a century of exaggerated propaganda against the weed.

The human mind has the capability to abandon ideas when they are proven to be false, misleading or overstated. This is the foundation of the scientific method. Human pride, however, and fear—in the case of the US government—refuses to back down one bit.

The nation, however, has a system of government that can and does change with the times. Based strictly on the merits of U.S. v. Oakland CBC, the Cooperative had no legal grounding in their activities.

Nobody forms an Aspirin Cooperative for minor aches and pains. The California government should have taken a more active role in the processing and distribution of marijuana. States have clear and total (theoretically, anyway) jurisdiction over public health but it seems that California failed to regulate the new prescription drug.

Had California controlled marijuana from seed to smoke, they could have dictated regulatory measures on THC levels, removed many toxins unrelated to the active ingredient and produced a safer joint for medical needs. There’s a huge difference in potency between backyard pot and hardcore Krypto strains.

Had California done everything correctly on the regulatory side, the Federal government would be easily accused of overreaching their powers to satisfy the dogma of an inbred Eastern Establishment.

The Supreme Court is clearly a court of judicial restraint. They will not interpret anything beyond what Congress writes against what the U.S. Constitution allows Congress to do. Or so we should hope.

Congress, for their part, should recognize their newfound power. Without an activist Court changing and rejecting every law they send to the President, they should now take extra care to spell out exactly what they consider to be their role in the farcical “Drug War” and start seriously delegating power to the states.

Nobody will attempt seccession, much less think about it, over medical marijuana. The problem is that issues like this one where the judgment of a state is completely trumped by a few opinions inside the Beltway have been piling up on top of each other since the ‘60s. Eventually, there will be the proverbial “straw that breaks the camel’s back.”

California might have problems now but, as the sixth largest economy in the world, if they take the hypothetical seccession from the Union route, everyone in D.C. is in trouble. Everyone follows California. They can easily do without the rest of the country.
Chris Uzal is a Political Science graduate of the University of Florida.

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