Category Archives: The Nanny State

Raich’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 Raich’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 Raich’s mobility and alleviate pain. According to her physician Dr. Frank Lucidio, taking her off her cannabis regimen would cause “imminent harm” which would likely lead to her death by starvation or malnutrition. Yet somehow the powers that be in their infinite wisdom have determined that Raich’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 isn’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 states’ 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 respondents’ 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 doctors’ recommendation, both rely heavily on cannabis to function on a daily basis. Indeed Raich’s physician believes that forgoing cannabis treatments would certainly cause Raich excruciating pain and could very well prove fatal. (p. 3, paragraph 2)

So what’s the problem then? If Raich’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 ‘culture of life’ conservatives like to talk about?

Despite the benefits as determined by the court’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 Congress’ power to regulated purely local activities that are part of an economic “class of activities” that have a substantial effect on interstate commerce…As we stated in Wickard, “even if appellee’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 commerce…When Congress decides that “’total incidence’” 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 ‘commerce clause’ (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 ‘economic activity,’ subject to the will of the U.S. Congress!

If you think I am being an alarmist, read Justice Clarence Thomas’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 “…under the Commerce Clause, then it can regulate virtually anything…” ? 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 Madison’s assurance to the people of New York that the “powers delegated” to the Federal Government are “few and defined,” while those of the States are “numerouse and indefinite.” (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 court’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.

Cigar Clubs

Back when I was living in Lake Forest, California, right around the corner was a place called Club Aficionado (caution on the link, it doesn’t like Firefox. Jerks). I went in there one day to check them out, and realized it wasn’t only a cigar store, it was a private club. In the back, they had a full bar, tables, big-screen TV, etc. They were telling me all about the local big-wigs who were members. I thought about it, figured out how much it cost to be a member, and decided I could make much better use of the money.

Since then, I’ve visited another local cigar club called Red Cloud. My future brother-in-law is a member, so the last time I was in California we stopped off for a smoke and a couple games of chess in the lounge. At the time, I started wondering if a business like this would make sense here in Georgia. After all, I’m in a relatively affluent area where something like this might give big-wigs a chance to hobnob with each other.

But then I realized a crucial difference between Georgia and California. In Georgia, it’s not illegal to smoke in public establishments. Thus, for California to even have a cigar bar, they must create a private club in which to enclose it.

Now, as my brother-in-law pointed out, they’re not just selling a place to smoke a cigar. They’re selling a bit of exclusivity. After all, we were there on a Saturday night at 9 PM, and the place was only mildly crowded. If you’re like me, and you like to sit at a bar and have a drink without the constant smash of people running into you, reaching over you, and generally invading your personal space, it makes a lot of sense. And because it’s a paid membership, there is a vested interest in making sure that your needs are catered to. Which is nice.

But when I had thought initially about the idea of a place like this opening in Georgia, I thought only of the benefits of private membership. I hadn’t considered the fact that private membership would be a legal necessity for the place to even exist. Could a place like this live outside of the legal constructs that California imposed? After all, I might be willing to spend a few hundred bucks a year for a membership to a nice private cigar bar, if it was the only place I could smoke a cigar. But I wouldn’t be willing to do so if there were free cigar bars around, which is something that doesn’t exist in California.

What this brings up is a nice example of the Bootlegger and the Baptist (also see this excellent Econtalk podcast with Bruce). This economic theory described by Bruce Yandle suggests that while a southern Baptist might fight to stop Sunday sales of alcohol in order to assuage his conscience, there is an economic benefit to the bootlegger who fills the market niche of selling alcohol illegally on Sundays at a very high profit. The bootlegger and the baptist aren’t working together, but they exist in a mutually beneficial arrangement (hurting only the consumer).

I think this is the same situation. In California, the nanny statists have decided that private property is public, and thus they can stop us from smoking to protect us from ourselves. This, though, hasn’t stopped the desire of individuals to go out and have a drink and a cigar. So a secondary industry springs up, charging people membership fees in order to legitimize their right to have a cigar in “public”. The nanny statists are happy (well, not as happy as they would be if they stopped it completely). The owners of the cigar clubs are happy, because they’re charging several hundred of dollars a year (over a thousand for a storage locker for your smokes) in order for the privilege of smoking in their establishment. The only people hurt, as is usually the case, is the consumer, who ends up spending a lot of money or losing his freedom.

The cigar club that we went to was a very nice place. I got to sit in a nice, comfy, high-backed leather chair, and proceed to beat the pants off my brother-in-law in chess (twice, actually). All the while I was smoking a very fine cigar and drinking an Arrogant Bastard. All in all, it was quite an enjoyable hour as we killed time before heading to a poker game. In fact, it’s someplace that I might consider joining if I lived there and thought I’d use it enough. But let’s remember exactly why it exists: because government took away freedom.

California’s Emerging Nanny State

Yesterday’s Los Angeles Times chronicles the ways in which California Democrats are quickly becoming the Kings of Nanny State legislation:

SACRAMENTO — Enjoy fast food? Like to light up while you watch the waves? Forget to sock away money for your kids’ education?

Some California lawmakers want to change your ways. They’ve planted a crop of proposals this year — “nanny” bills, as they’re called — that would:

• Restrict the use of artery-clogging trans fat, common in fried and baked foods and linked to heart disease, in restaurants and school cafeterias.

• Bar smoking at state parks and beaches, and in cars carrying children.

• Open a savings account, seeded with $500, for every newborn Californian to use at 18 for college, a first home purchase or an investment for retirement.

• Fine dog and cat owners who don’t spay or neuter their pets by 4 months of age.

• Require chain restaurants to list calorie, saturated fat and sodium content on menus.

• Phase out the sale of incandescent light bulbs, which are less energy-efficient than compact fluorescent bulbs.

The proposals have sparked something of a debate in the hallways of the State Legislature in Sacramento: The debate has commenced in the Capitol: How far should government go?

The proposals are the brainchildren of Democratic legislators. Republicans, who say the sponsors are trying to parent the whole state, are having none of it.

“Could you imagine the founding fathers dealing with — I don’t know — wearing a helmet when you’re in the buggy?” said the Assembly’s Republican leader, Mike Villines of Clovis.

“We all know you can’t mandate behavior; it just does not work,” he said. “It creates criminals of people for things that are not criminal behavior…. You can’t legislate for stupidity.”

But that is exactly what legislators across the country are trying to do and, as David Boaz points out, the Nanny State impulse isn’t limited to Democrats:

Republicans are no slouches in the nanny-state department. From New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s jihad against smoking to Arkansas governor Michael Huckabee’s war on obesity to President Bush’s grab-bag of Clintonesque hand-outs and religious-right prohibitions, Republicans have proved themselves equally adept at hectoring, monitoring, nudging, and punishing recalcitrant citizens.

So the next time you hear a Republican complaining about Democrats who want to ban smoking in outdoor restaurants, or trans-fat, or whatever it might be, remember this:

[F]rom the Republicans we get federal money for churches; and congressional investigations into textbook pricing, the college football bowl system, the firing of Terrell Owens, video games, the television rating system, you name it; and huge new fines for indecency on television; and crackdowns on medical marijuana and steroids and ephedra; and federal intervention in the sad case of Terri Schiavo; and the No Child Left Behind Act; and federal subsidies for marriage; and (for less favored constituencies) a constitutional amendment to override the marriage laws of the 50 states.

Republicans and Democrats. They both want to control your life. And they both think they know what’s good for you, better than you do.

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