The nation is edging slowly towards full-blown marijuana legalization. Several states have joined the “Green Rush,” legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana in their states. And at the end of 2020, congress tried to pass a bill that would decriminalize the medicinal plant federally. It’s all but certain that cannabis will be legalized or at least decriminalized on a federal level within the next decade. What makes this prediction seem even more likely are the recent statements from conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Although the Supreme Court refused to hear a case that dealt with taxes and cannabis in Colorado, Justice Thomas did issue a statement that highlighted his feelings on marijuana law. “A prohibition on interstate use or cultivation of marijuana may no longer be necessary or proper to support the federal government’s piecemeal approach,” he wrote.
Justice Thomas brought up Gonzales v. Raich, which was a case in 2005 that determined the federal government could penalize cannabis cultivation taking place solely within the state of California. The ruling stated that because the federal government could regulate interstate commerce, it could also enforce the prohibition against cannabis. However, Justice Thomas recognized how that ruling would not make sense in today’s climate.
“Whatever the merits of Raich when it was decided, federal policies of the past 16 years have greatly undermined its reasoning,” Thomas penned. “Once comprehensive, the Federal Government’s current approach is a half-in, half-out regime that simultaneously tolerates and forbids local use of marijuana.”
“This contradictory and unstable state of affairs strains basic principles of federalism and conceals traps for the unwary,” he continued, adding, “though federal law still flatly forbids the intrastate possession, cultivation, or distribution of marijuana…the Government, post-Raich, has sent mixed signals on its views.”
“Given all these developments, one can certainly understand why an ordinary person might think that the Federal Government has retreated from its once-absolute ban on marijuana,” he communicated. “One can also perhaps understand why business owners in Colorado…may think that their intrastate marijuana operations will be treated like any other enterprise that is legal under state law.”