I am a drug warrior from way back (well, since I left college, anyway). Back in the Marines I used to fly drug interdiction missions over the Bahamas. As a Federal Prosecutor I was in the Narcotics section. So it might surprise some people that, with regard to the Raich v. Ashcroft case the Supreme Court heard earlier this week (involving the California medical marijuana law), I am firmly on the side of the dopers.
Raich is a seriously ill woman who, on the advice of her physician, was smoking marijuana to relieve her symptoms of pain. This is okay under California law, the question before the Supreme Court is whether Ms. Raich can still be prosecuted for her conduct by federal drug laws.
Under our Constitutional scheme the federal government is limited to certain defined activities, and everything else is supposed to be left to the states. One of the federal powers granted by the Constitution is regulation of commerce among the states, and this commerce power is the "hook" that the feds use to justify the regulation and prohibition of certain drugs.
Now, there isn't any question that there is a national market for marijuana, and laws involving distribution, or possession for distribution clearly impact interstate commerce. But the dope Ms. Raich was smoking was grown locally, and was provided to her free of charge. So, if the private smoking of (free, locally grown) dope by an ill woman in her living room can be regulated by the federal commerce power, then I guess the commerce power has no practical limit, and congress can regulate anything it wants. This concern was voiced by Mr. Adler at NRO:
Under the government’s reasoning there is no activity beyond Congress’s grasp — a position the Supreme Court has repeatedly rejected over the past ten years. Essentially, the Justice Department maintains that the power to adopt broad economic regulatory schemes necessarily entails the power to reach the most inconsequential, noncommercial conduct that occurs wholly within the confines of a single state.
People need to get beyond the issue of whether they think smoking dope for medical reasons is a good idea (I don't, by the way). The Framers created a federal government with limited enumerated powers, and the issue here is whether anyone still believes in that.