Federalism in Sharp Relief: Legalizing Marijuana

[UPDATE as of 10/18/2011: Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight did some meta-analysis that is well worth a read. Check it out here.]

So Gallup puts out today that a half of Americans are in favor of legalizing marijuana. See here for the full post.

Unsurprisingly, the modal supporting demographic was the 18-29 year olds – sixty-two percent favor legalization. Also unsurprisingly, liberals and conservatives split drastically. Of course, since age and political ideology co-vary, that’s to be expected. Indeed, in inferential analysis it assuredly would raise issues of multicollinearity.

But why do I care about public opinion? This is a law blog after all…political opinions are not what I like to focus on. Here’s our connection to the law: the federal Control Substances Act, 21 U.S.C. § 801 et seq. 

With more and more states allowing medical marijuana, the US Attorney General has made it clear that it remains a federal violation to possess marijuana regardless of what states authorize. This USA Today piece nicely illustrates the matter.

Now that half the country is supportive of legalization, might we expect the federalism debate to become more vocal? Far more remarkably, might we see Congressmen attempt to dismantle or abrogate the Controlled Substances Act? Could Gonzales v. Raich, 545 U.S. 1 (2005) become inconsequential??

I’ll be watching the matter with a keen eye as it seems only a matter of time before political tensions on this subject spill into the judiciary.

-Zachary Cloud

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