Raichâ€™s Options: Die or Go to Jail
Doug has already written about how our courts have denied Angel Raich her right to life but I think this is such a fundamental miscarriage of justice that it deserves further discussion. Angel Raich suffers with a brain tumor, chronic pain, seizures, Scoliosis, TMJ and other medical conditions; her physician has determined that cannabis is her only effective treatment option for these conditions. According to Raichâ€™s website, from 1996 to 1999 she could not move the right side of her body and had to use a wheelchair. After smoking the cannabis as recommended by her doctor, she was able to ditch the wheelchair and better manage her pain.
Cannabis has done more than restore Raichâ€™s mobility and alleviate pain. According to her physician Dr. Frank Lucidio, taking her off her cannabis regimen would cause â€œimminent harmâ€ which would likely lead to her death by starvation or malnutrition. Yet somehow the powers that be in their infinite wisdom have determined that Raichâ€™s life is not worth saving. Their precious prohibition of marijuana is more important.
It seems that Raich will have to risk going to jail if she wants to live. This isnâ€™t the first time Raich has had legal setbacks regarding this issue. Back in 2005, SCOTUS ruled against her 6-3 in Gonzales vs. Raich. The majority opinion even acknowledged that without the cannabis she could die. The following is a post I wrote on June 9, 2005 at Fearless Philosophy for Free Minds in reaction to this disastrous ruling.
State, Economic, and Individual Rights Up in Smoke
I cannot say that I was surprised with the unfortunate 6-3 Supreme Court ruling (Gonzales vs. Raich) in which the court determined using marijuana for medicinal purposes violates federal law. In the process of fighting the war on drugs, civil liberties of this great country have been compromised over and over again from courts all across the land. My interest in this case initially was due to my opposition to the war on drugs. The reasoning this court used to justify the ruling, however; should disturb every capitalist, supporter of statesâ€™ rights, fiscal conservative, constructionist, and those who value limited government, irrespective of how each views the war on drugs.
In the majority opinion delivered by Justice Stevens (joined by Kennedy, Souter, Ginsberg and Breyer; Scalia wrote his own opinion concurrent with the ruling), the ruling recognized that Respondents Raich and Monson may indeed benefit from using marijuana for their conditions, written as follows:
They [Raich and Monson] are being treated by licensed, board-certified family practitioners, who have concluded, after prescribing a host of conventional medicines to treat respondentsâ€™ conditions and to alleviate their associated symptoms, that marijuana is the only drug available that provides effective treatment. Both women have been using marijuana as a medication for several years pursuant to their doctorsâ€™ recommendation, both rely heavily on cannabis to function on a daily basis. Indeed Raichâ€™s physician believes that forgoing cannabis treatments would certainly cause Raich excruciating pain and could very well prove fatal. (p. 3, paragraph 2)
So whatâ€™s the problem then? If Raichâ€™s condition could become fatal because she stops using marijuana, she now has to risk arrest by federal agents or chose to die by following the law? What happened to this â€˜culture of lifeâ€™ conservatives like to talk about?
Despite the benefits as determined by the courtâ€™s majority, the court still managed to find reason to rule against a law passed by the people of California. As disturbing as denying medication to those who truly need it is, the reasoning is even more cause for alarm. The ruling reads:
Our case law firmly establishes Congressâ€™ power to regulated purely local activities that are part of an economic â€œclass of activitiesâ€ that have a substantial effect on interstate commerceâ€¦As we stated in Wickard, â€œeven if appelleeâ€™s activity be 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 commerceâ€¦When Congress decides that â€œâ€™total incidenceâ€™â€ of a practice poses a threat to a national market, it may regulate the entire class. (p.13-14, paragraph 3)
What kind of flawed reasoning is this? This so-called interstate commerce is grown, sold, and used locally. How does this local activity affect commerce in other states? It appears that this bad court decision is based on a few other bad court decisions, loosely interpreting the â€˜commerce clauseâ€™ (Section 8; Clauses 3 and 18) of the U.S. Constitution. The obvious problem is that the court is granting power to the congress to manipulate the economy however it sees fit regardless of if the commerce is interstate or not. This is frightening. Using this line of reasoning, any activity one could choose to participate in or not participate in could be considered an â€˜economic activity,â€™ subject to the will of the U.S. Congress!
If you think I am being an alarmist, read Justice Clarence Thomasâ€™s dissent. Thomas gets straight to the point writing:
Respondents Diane Monson and Angel Raich use marijuana that has never been bought or sold, that has never crossed state lines, and that has had no demonstrable effect on the national market for marijuana. If Congress can regulate this under the Commerce Clause, then it can regulate virtually anything-and the Federal Government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers. (Justice Thomas Dissenting, p.1 paragraph 1 or p.62 paragraph 1 in the pdf. format)
What does Thomas mean when he states that â€œâ€¦under the Commerce Clause, then it can regulate virtually anythingâ€¦â€ ? Thomas continues:
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. This makes a mockery of Madisonâ€™s assurance to the people of New York that the “powers delegatedâ€ to the Federal Government are â€œfew and defined,â€ while those of the States are â€œnumerouse and indefinite.â€ (Justice Thomas Dissenting, p.13 paragraph 1 or p.74 paragraph 1 in the pdf. format)
It is truly amazing the lengths our Federal Government will go to continue fighting the war on drugs. The casualties in this battle are people such as Diane Monson and Angel Raich who must find an alternative treatment for their conditions (though by the courtâ€™s own admission, marijuana is probably the best treatment available for these women), the California voters who passed the proposition, the free market, the States, the Constitution, and ultimately, everyone who believes in limited government.