Politics of pot use

The U.S. Supreme Court’s split decision this week that state medical-marijuana laws do not trump federal law has an ironic twist, in that two of the most conservative justices on the bench voted in favor of pot use for patients in states where it is allowed.

The decision was about states’ rights more than whether marijuana eases chronic pain or calms persistent nausea. Indeed, in the more liberal judges’ minds, this decision is about the federal government’s ability to meddle in states’ business on any number of issues, from gay marriage to the teaching of creationism in schools to the display of the Ten Commandments in a public place.

In this case the liberals, under the guise of regulating interstate commerce, decided to sacrifice the medical-pot users for the bigger picture. Their convoluted argument holds that marijuana is sold across state lines and that its condoned use by medical patients increases the amount of pot sold on the streets and in turn increases the flow across state lines, which allows the feds to step in.

The decision left Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justice Thomas Clarence, both conservatives, defending medical-marijuana use. Thomas argued that allowing Diane Monson (who’s from Oroville) and Angel Raich, the plaintiffs in the case, to smoke pot did not affect the national market for marijuana. What’s more, condoning federal intervention gives the federal government unfettered right to regulate virtually anything.

While this appears to be a setback for medical-marijuana users in California and nine other states with similar pot laws, we can’t help but think that as more states move to legalize pot use, Congress eventually will pass a law condoning it. We certainly hope so.

In the meantime, the lesson for medical-marijuana users is: If you get busted using or growing your medicine, make sure it’s not by the feds.