Gonzales v. Raich

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Gonzales v. Raich
545 U.S. 1
Decided: 2005

Gonzales v. Raich was a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision written by Justice John Paul Stevens upholding the application of federal law against marijuana cultivation to a purely local (intrastate) activity in California. By a 6-3 majority, the Court held that the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause do grant Congress the authority to prohibit the growing of large amounts of marijuana even if legal under state law. In this case California permitted marijuana growth for allegedly medical purposes.

The Court held that "Congress acted rationally" in declining to adopt a medical-marijuana exception to the generally applicable federal ban on manufacture, possession, and sale. Gonzales v. Raich, 125 S. Ct. 2195, 2211 (2005). "The notion that California law has surgically excised a discrete activity that is hermetically sealed off from the larger interstate marijuana market is a dubious proposition, and, more importantly, one that Congress could have rationally rejected." Id. at 2213.

This decision represented an unusual disagreement between Justice Antonin Scalia, who sided with the majority, and Justice Clarence Thomas, who sided with the dissent. This decision was also unusual in that two dissents were written, mostly arguing that offering an illegal drug for free, made entirely within one state, does not constitute "Commerce between the Several States", nor "Necessary and Proper". Fortunately, conservative reason was not overcome by these dissents.