Justin Bullock, FISM News
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is famously known as the most quiet justice on the Supreme Court. However, on Monday, Justice Thomas wrote a dissenting opinion when the Court decided not to take up a case on federal laws surrounding marijuana. The case was an appeal from a Colorado medical marijuana dispensary that was denied federal tax breaks that other businesses have access to.
Thomas indicated that the Court’s past precedent may no longer be relevant given the current state of federal law concerning marijuana. This is the result of the growing popular opinion that marijuana should be legalized across the country as thirty-six states allow for medical usage of the drug and eighteen allow for recreational usage. There is also widespread indication that more states will join one of the two categories over the next few years.
Almost all federal departments and agencies, including the Department of Justice, have taken a hands-off approach toward federal law about marijuana and have allowed states to shoulder the responsibility to make and enforce their own laws about the drug. The only federal agency that still adopts a hardline approach is the IRS as they seek to collect taxes from growers and dealers. Justice Thomas recognized this state of affairs in his opinion:
A prohibition on interstate use or cultivation of marijuana may no longer be necessary or proper to support the federal government’s piecemeal approach… Federal policies of the past 16 years have greatly undermined its reasoning. The federal government’s current approach is a half-in, half-out regime that simultaneously tolerates and forbids local use of marijuana… [The federal government’s] willingness to look the other way on marijuana is more episodic that coherent.
Public opinion seems to side with Justice Thomas’s thoughts as well. There is a growing opinion that rather than being criminalized and banned, marijuana should be legalized and robustly regulated in the same way tobacco or alcohol is.