Originally created 01/17/97

Asserts states have right to pot laws



As a newspaper that endeavors to uphold the proud Southern tradition of states' rights, you could have done a much better job in the Jan. 6 editorial, "Can states OK pot?" Have you failed to see that in this dispute between the citizens of California and Arizona and the United States government over drug laws, there is something larger at stake than the right of physicians to prescribe marijuana as a painkiller?

The potheads in the Clinton administration certainly understand, and thus have set themselves tooth and nail against the attempt of the two Western states to make their own laws regulating the production and sale of a certain drug within their own borders. They are not about to give up their power to regulate all commerce, both interstate and intrastate, for the trivial benefit of being able to indulge their vice openly while on junkets to California and Arizona.

For an advocate of states' rights, the reason to protest current federal drug laws is not that state or local governments can do a better job than the federal government of looking after citizens' health; the reason is that in 1789, when the U.S. Constitution was ratified, the states did not grant to the federal government that responsibility or power. If citizens now think that the federal government should have that power, then they may, acting through the federal Congress and their state legislatures, amend the Constitution to that effect.

As it now stands, most federal drug laws can be justified only by a ridiculously expansive interpretation of the Commerce Clause. A sensible, straightforward reading of Article I, Section 8 would allow Congress to prohibit the sale of marijuana outside the state in which it is grown and also its importation from a foreign country or Indian nation - and nothing more. To forbid the production, consumption or sale of a good or service within the borders of a particular state is a power that may be exercised only by the people of that state (according to the Tenth Amendment).

What Californians and Arizonans did last November - to permit physicians to prescribe marijuana as an analgesic - may have been stupid. But if it was, it was their stupidity; and according to the supreme law of the land, it is their right to practice it - without federal interference. ...

Rev. Jeffrey Smith, Aiken