Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Raich: Liberals and Conservatives Find Common Cause

I get nervous when conservatives and liberals find something they can agree on. The legal commentary on Gonzalez v. Raich has been almost unrelievedly critical, and fundamentally cynical.

Liberals want to legalize pot, and medical marijuana is the achievable camel's nose under the tent; but they believe in strong federal government and equate "states' rights" with slavery and the right-to-life movement. Conservatives supposedly believe in a federal government of limited powers and the preservation of some state sovereignty; but don't for a minute believe that recreational drug use should be legal generally, or deregulated locally.

The original Constitution envisioned States as partners in a system of "dual sovereignty," and while the Founders worried that the feds might try to regulate guns and made sure they couldn't (or thought they did), nobody even imagined that the feds might ever regulate the interstate trade in medicinal elixirs and potions by traveling salesmen driving medicine wagons across state lines. But that original vision of Commerce Clause (captured in the fantasy described in O'Connor's quote from Federalist 45 in the first paragraph of part III, which even Thomas couldn't buy into with a straight face) is just a quaint fairy tale after more than 200 years of ever-expanding, almost unchallenged, and only symbolically limited federal authority, at the expense of state sovereignty, as interpreted by the Supreme Court.

Marijuana should be completely legal, and children should be taught from an early age that it's more fun and much healthier than alcohol; but the idea that the Constitution, as interpreted today, forecloses federal regulation of intrastate production and sale of pharmaceuticals is just plain nuts. Conservatives and liberals joining together in the pretense that this case is about whether a sick old lady has as much right to garden her weed as she does to weed her garden is just plain bullshit.