In 1996 in California, voters passed the Compassionate Act. Which legalized marijuana for medical use. This however, conflicted with the Federal Controlled Substances Act. Then, the DEA was able to seize marijuana plants from a patient’s home. The drugs were doctor-prescribed.Then a group of Medicinal Marijuana users sued John Ashcroft, US Attorney General, and the DEA. The group argued that the CSA was past Congress’ power in the Commerce Clause.
The question was: does the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 801) exceed Congress’ power under the commerce clause as applied to the intrastate cultivation and possession of marijuana for medical use?
The holding was yes. The law was upheld. Congress gets to regulate intrastate activity, where the behavior can affect commerce. The court does not always have to look for a substantial impact on commerce in a given situation, just a “plausible story.” Justice John Paul Stevens stated, “Our case law firmly establishes Congress’ power to regulate purely local activities that are part of an economic ‘class of activities’ that have a substantial effect on interstate commerce.” In a dissent “The majority’s rewriting of the Commerce Clause seems to be rooted in the belief that, unless the Commerce Clause covers the entire web of human activity, Congress will be left powerless to regulate the national economy effectively.” Justice 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.”