Gonzales v. Raich – Case on Commerce Clause

Gonzales v. Raich, 545 U.S. 1 (2005)

The Commerce Clause is perhaps one of the most controversial provisions contained in the United States. It essentially affords latitude to the United States Congress to regulate crucial aspect of business with foreign states, among different jurisdictions in the country, and Native American tribes (Vile, 2018). The Commerce Clause was applied as a reference point during the 2005 6-3 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Gonzales v. Raich case. Congress was given the freedom to proscribe the production, sale, and distribution of homegrown cannabis regardless of whether or not it was permitted for medicinal use within a given state, ultimately impacting health policy. The majority opinion by Justices Stevens, Scalia, Kennedy, and Souter underscored Congress’ constitutional powers and ability to regulate or prohibit cannabis for non-medical uses. Outlawing the cultivation of cannabis was, therefore, acceptable as an ideal approach to preclude easy access to cannabis.

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However, Chief Justice W. Rehnquist, Justice O’Connor, and Justice Thomas voiced their dissent since the ruling essentially made the growing of small amounts of marijuana for medicinal purposes criminal (Barnett & Blackman, 2019). The connection between the action taken by the federal government and the foundation for this action was a direct result of its discretion under the defining tenets of Article I, Section 8, and Clause 3 of the U.S Constitution. This mainly due to the fact that the Controlled Substances Act fails to acknowledge any medicinal use of cannabis. The federal government, through the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) then proceeded to dismantle the local medical marijuana industry in California even though such activities were permitted within this particular jurisdiction.

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I strongly believe that the legal growth, processing, and distribution of medical marijuana should not have been placed under the federal regulatory power; making the ruling erroneous. The Gonzales v. Raich ruling further cemented excessive and unwarranted federal encroachment, hindering nascent economic experiments capable benefitting the society at large. It also criminalized the cultivation of medicinal marijuana for medicinal purposes; infringing upon the personal liberties of U.S. citizens.

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