Thursday, June 09, 2005

A Doobious ruling (and a farmer called Filburn)

This week the Supreme Court ruled against medical marijuana. la-li-la. I thought great for tourism to Amsterdam. (Sure, Belgium has decriminalized marijuana for several years. But tourism destination of choice for sex depraved or drug curious yanks is and will remain Amsterdam and specifically the streets at the end of the Kalverstraat.)

In the evening, I tuned into the Gene Burns program on KGO on the ruling of the Supreme Court. Gene is an authority on constitutional law. His introductory piece deep dived into the majority opinion of the Supreme Court ruling. Boy-o-boy, this ruling has much less to do with a doobey, than it has to do with personal freedom. Here's the story of a fellow named Filburn.

When you first heard the news about the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the medical marijuana case of Gonzales v. Raich, you probably didn’t give much thought to a Ohioan farmer named Roscoe Filburn. Yet, Mr. Filburn’s fight to use the wheat grown on his own land is intimately tied with this landmark case on the legality of state’s rights to legalize medical marijuana. Gene thinks it goes to the very heart of the structure and state of American government today—the Founding Fathers would not be pleased to see the rise in power and control in the federal government.

Roscoe Filburn, an Ohio dairy and poultry farmer, who raised a small quantity of winter wheat — some to sell, some to feed his livestock, and some to consume. In 1940, under authority of the Agricultural Adjustment Act, the central government told Mr. Filburn that for the next year he would be limited to planting 11 acres of wheat and harvesting 20 bushels per acre. He harvested 12 acres over his allotment for consumption on his own property. When the government fined him, Mr. Filburn refused to pay.

Wickard v. Filburn got to the Supreme Court, and in 1942, the justices unanimously ruled against the farmer. The government claimed that if Mr. Filburn grew wheat for his own use, he would not be buying it — and that affected interstate commerce. This case is heavily cited in the majority opinion ruling against Diane Monson and Angel Raich, two Californian women who, despite growing marijuana in their own yard, were forced to shut down their medical distribution of the drug.

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that federal authorities may prosecute people using doctor-recommended pot, concluding that medical marijuana laws in California and nine other states don't make such users immune from federal laws against marijuana possession. It’s a dramatic overreach of federal government powers, but the precedent was already set in Wickard v. Filburn and the rest of FDR’s forceful New Deal agencies.

People ask Gene why he is a libertarian—this ruling does most of the explaining for him. Over the decades since the Great Depression, both political parties have attempted to grab the reins of federal control for their own reasons—the Democrats for huge, inefficient social economic programs and Republicans for “values” issues. Nevertheless, the end result has been a government that is far too strong, going against the design of the Founding Fathers.

Never mind that marijuana should be completely decriminalized, an issue for another day
[Source: KGO810 Program summaries]

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