What was the final ruling of the Gonzales v. Raich case?


Quick Answer

The final ruling in Gonzalez v. Raich (2004) held that Congress had the power to regulate the “manufacture, distribution or possession of marijuana” in contradiction to state law, according to Harvard Law School. The ruling confirmed that federal law superseded state law without the violation of the Commerce Clause.

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Full Answer

Congress passed the Controlled Substance Act in 1970, which prohibited certain scheduled drugs, according to Cornell University Legal Information Institute. California passed the Compassionate Use Act via referendum in 1996, which allowed the growth, sale and use of marijuana for medical purposes within the state, according to The Oyez Project. The Drug Enforcement Agency searched and seized marijuana from a patient with a prescription under California state law, prompting medical marijuana users to sue the DEA and then U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.

In this case, the court decided that Congress acted within its power of the Commerce Clause because the sale of marijuana in one state created shifts in the supply and demand for interstate commerce purposes, according to Cornell University Legal Information Institute. Congress had the power to regulate and supersede state economic activity if it affected national commerce. This ruling looked at the economic system and the Commerce Clause in a more broad sense than previous rulings which emphasized that individual laws were outside of the direction of the Commerce Clause.

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