December 2, 2004
Time was when marijuana use prompted easy political stereotypes - liberals for, conservatives against. Not anymore. Conservatives of different stripes are likely to have warring views on the case the Supreme Court considered this week asking whether a federal law prohibiting marijuana possession can constitutionally trump laws in 11 states that allow marijuana use for medicinal purposes. The court should rule in favor of the states.

Cultural conservatives won't like the idea of legal drug use. Ditto for conservatives who favor states rights, but they'd like it even less if the court allowed Washington to overrule voters in states who approved the use of medical marijuana.

Justices don't rely on political views to decide such things. Federal drug laws are rooted in the Constitution's commerce clause, which authorizes regulation of interstate trade. But the court has said that authority doesn't cover local, non-economic acts unless there's a commercial impact. That should apply to two California women whose marijuana wasn't commercially traded or shipped across state lines. There are plenty of legitimate fronts in the war on drugs. Sick people using marijuana with their doctors' blessings isn't one of them.