James Leroy Wilson's blog

Thursday, June 09, 2005

More on the Marijuana Decision

Steve Chapman of the Chicago Tribune writes:

Under the Articles of Confederation, states could erect trade barriers to protect home industries from competitors in other states, to the detriment of national prosperity. So when the time came to draft a new Constitution, the delegates wanted to create a national free-trade zone. Hence they gave Congress authority to "regulate commerce ... among the several states."

That's "among," not "within." Clearly the feds had some latitude to address economic matters that affected two or more states, but not to police commercial activity confined to a single state.


Yet this Supreme Court managed to find excuses to rule against [Diane Monson]. Quoting from a 1942 decision, Justice John Paul Stevens insisted that even if an activity "is local and though it may not be regarded as commerce, it may still, whatever its nature, be reached by Congress if it exerts a substantial economic effect on interstate commerce."

Oh? The Constitution grants Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce--not anything that affects interstate commerce. Still, it's absurd to think Monson's six plants could have even the slightest effect on the national market for marijuana.

So the court was driven to say that Congress not only has the power to regulate anything that might affect interstate commerce, it has the power to regulate anything that might affect anything that might affect interstate commerce. As dissenting Justice Clarence Thomas warned, "If the majority is to be taken seriously, the federal government may now regulate quilting bees, clothes drives and potluck suppers throughout the 50 states."

Yes, Mr. Madison, our federal government is one of a few defined powers--and a whole lot of undefined ones.

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