3 Southern officials say the U.S. lacks the right to limit such private use.
As final briefs were filed Wednesday in a critical medical marijuana test case, set for argument in the U.S. Supreme Court next month, California got some unlikely allies.
A trio of Southern attorneys general submitted a brief saying that when states decide to let their citizens light up, the federal government should butt out.
“The question presented here is not whether vigorous enforcement of the nation’s drug laws is a good criminal policy. It most assuredly is,” says the brief filed by Alabama and joined by Mississippi and Louisiana.
“The question, rather, is whether the Constitution permits the federal government, under the guise of regulating interstate commerce, to criminalize the purely local possession of marijuana for personal medicinal use. It does not.”
Among the states filing the friend-of-the-court brief, only Louisiana permits even the most limited use of marijuana as medicine.
Alabama, which makes about 10,000 arrests each year for marijuana possession, made it clear that it considers California’s medical pot law “profoundly misguided.”
But the states-rights brief said all states have a fundamental right to regulate their citizens’ health, safety, welfare and morals, and the federal government should stop interfering.
As expected, California’s attorney general, Bill Lockyer, also filed a brief, urging the Supreme Court to leave room for state medical pot laws.
His friend-of-the-court brief, filed Wednesday, was signed by the attorneys general of Maryland and Washington state, which also have medical pot laws.
More surprising, however, was support for the pro-pot side of the case from the conservative Pacific Legal Foundation, which filed a brief earlier on what is viewed as the key legal issue – the scope of the federal government’s power to regulate interstate commerce.
Though the Sacramento-based foundation pointedly weighed in on the case “in support of neither party,” its brief says the federal power should extend only to endeavors that are economic and substantially affect interstate commerce.