Tuesday, June 7, 2005

Commerce, Cannabis, and Competition

As perhaps you have heard by now, the Supreme Court upheld Congress' power to regulate medicinal marijuana under the Commerce Clause in Gonzales v. Raich, decided yesterday.  The decision was correct as far as federalism is concerned but bad policy from the perspective of drug regulation.   It is unlikely that Congress will backtrack on the war on drugs, but perhaps sometime in the next ten years (as the wind on the Hill starts blowing in a different direction), there will be a federal exception for medicinal uses.  Most likely what will happen before then is a policy of, to coin a phrase, "don't tell, don't prosecute."  At least, I hope federal agents don't start going after the infirm and the weak even if they have the power to do so.

Jose Melendez, founder of the Concerned Citizens Coalition to Criminalize Prohibition in Florida, offers a novel theory: the war on drugs is anticompetitive policy and has been influenced by members of industry that want to monopolize and raise the price of legal intoxicants and pharmaceuticals.   Mr. Melendez offers a colorful and interesting perspective which probably meshes with some of the realities of the history of marijuana regulation in the United States, even if the theories are a bit too conspiratorial. 


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