Conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas on Monday issued a blistering dissent arguing that federal marijuana prohibition could no longer make sense.
Although the dissent doesn’t instantly change something, it may grow to be vital if its reasoning conjures up lower-level judges to strike down legal guidelines that make marijuana illegal.
Thomas wrote that tolerance for state-level pot legalization created a “half-in, half-out regime” and a “contradictory and unstable state of affairs” that “strains basic principles of federalism and conceals traps for the unwary.”
Thomas connected his opinion to a courtroom case coping with whether or not a medical marijuana dispensary in Colorado, Standing Akimbo Medical Dispensary, may deduct enterprise bills earlier than paying federal taxes. State-legal pot corporations can’t deduct bills as a result of the drug stays federally illegal.
Thomas wrote, nonetheless, that tolerance for state-level pot legalization signifies that “[a] prohibition on intrastate use or cultivation of marijuana may no longer be necessary or proper to support the Federal Government’s piecemeal approach.”
The different eight justices didn’t justify their choice to show down the case, leaving a lower court ruling towards the enterprise in place. But Thomas broadly attacked the “disjuncture” on federal coverage past the tax dispute.
“Many marijuana-related businesses operate entirely in cash because federal law prohibits certain financial institutions from knowingly accepting deposits from or providing other bank services to businesses that violate federal law. Cash-based operations are understandably enticing to burglars and robbers,” Thomas wrote.
“But, if marijuana-related businesses, in recognition of this, hire armed guards for protection, the owners and the guards might run afoul of a federal law that imposes harsh penalties for using a firearm in furtherance of a ‘drug trafficking crime.’ A marijuana user similarly can find himself a federal felon if he just possesses a firearm. Or petitioners and similar businesses may find themselves on the wrong side of a civil suit under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.”
Since 2012, 18 states, two US territories and Washington, DC, have legalized leisure pot use and voters in a nineteenth state — South Dakota — voted for legalization, however the referendum is tied up in courtroom.
Sometimes, dissents from the Supreme Court find yourself as fodder for future circumstances.
President Biden opposes marijuana legalization and this yr the White House fired and disciplined staffers for previous pot use. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is pushing a bill to federally legalize marijuana, however a variety of Democratic holdouts and broad opposition from GOP senators means it’s unlikely to go rapidly.
Thomas beforehand argued towards federal criminalization of marijuana if the drug doesn’t cross state strains, writing in a dissent opposing the 2005 ruling in Gonzales v. Raich that it made a “mockery” of the Founding Fathers’ imaginative and prescient for federalism and by extension meant that the federal authorities may “now regulate quilting bees, clothes drives, and potluck suppers.”
The White House has declined to say if Biden will honor his campaign-trail pledge to release “everyone” in prison for marijuana. As a senator, Biden authored a few of the nation’s harshest federal drug legal guidelines. On his final day as president, Donald Trump launched two prisoners serving life without parole for pot beneath Biden’s 1994 crime regulation.
Vice President Kamala Harris reportedly oversaw 1,900 marijuana prosecutions whereas she was San Francisco district lawyer from 2004 to 2011, earlier than saying in 2019 that she is a former pot consumer and a supporter of legalization.