Clarence Thomas, Assistant Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, listens during a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, the United States, on Monday, October 26, 2020.
Al Drago | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said Monday that federal laws against the sale and cultivation of marijuana are inconsistent, making a national ban unnecessary.
“A ban on the interstate use or cultivation of marijuana may no longer be necessary or appropriate to support the federal government’s piecemeal approach,” wrote Thomas, one of the court’s most conservative judges, in a statement.
The court’s decision not to hear a new case related to tax deductions alleged by a medical marijuana dispensary in Colorado prompted Thomas to issue a statement relating more broadly to federal marijuana laws.
Thomas stated that a 2005 judgment in the Gonzales v. Raich, which stated that the federal government could enforce the ban on marijuana possession, may be out of date.
“Federal policy over the past 16 years has severely undermined its rationale,” added Thomas. “The federal government’s current approach is a half-in, half-out regime that both tolerates and prohibits the local use of marijuana.”
Thomas referred to several guidelines that contradict the 2005 ruling. These include Justice Department memoranda from 2009 and 2013 stating that the government would not interfere with state marijuana legalization programs or prosecute individuals for marijuana activities if it was in accordance with state law.
He added that since 2015, Congress has repeatedly banned the Justice Department from using federal funds to meddle in the implementation of state medical marijuana laws.
“Given all these developments, one can understand why a normal person might think that the federal government has withdrawn from its once absolute ban on marijuana,” he wrote.
With 36 states allowing medical marijuana use and 18 recreational use, Thomas claimed marijuana companies do not experience “equal treatment” under the law.
The problem is a provision in tax law that prohibits companies that deal in marijuana and other controlled substances from deducting their business expenses. The IRS is cracking down on marijuana companies like the Colorado medical marijuana dispenser by conducting investigations into their tax deductions.
“Under this rule, a company that is still in the red after paying its workers and leaving the lights on could still owe a sizable federal income tax,” wrote Thomas.
The judiciary also found a consequence of the federal marijuana ban, stating that most marijuana companies operate entirely in cash due to restrictions preventing state financial institutions from providing banking services to these companies. This makes these companies more vulnerable to break-ins and robberies, according to Thomas.
All of these questions regarding federal marijuana laws threaten, Thomas argues, the principles of federalism.
“If the government is now satisfied with allowing states to ‘act as laboratories, then it may no longer have authority to enter the[t]The central police powers of the states. . . Define criminal law and protect the health, safety and wellbeing of its citizens, “said Thomas.
Legal experts like Joseph Bondy, a cannabis law expert on the board of directors of the National Organization for the Reform of Marihuana Laws, agreed with the judiciary’s testimony, predicting that arguments about the injustice of federal marijuana laws would continue. Law & Crime reported on Monday.
While Bondy noted that Thomas’ testimony may not have actual legal implications, he told Law & Crime that it was still “sending out a message that may temper the views of some people in Congress,” including “one of our Republican senators.” “