Pot, Assisted Suicide Cases: Contradictory Or Consistent?


Last year, the Supreme Court said that using marijuana to relieve pain violated the federal Controlled Substances Act. This week, says The Oregonian, the court said the same federal law could not be used to punish doctors who prescribe a lethal cocktail for terminally ill patients in Oregon. While the results might seem contradictory, the rulings establish the central purpose of the Controlled Substances Act: to combat illicit drug use and trafficking. “Marijuana was exactly the kind of thing that is at the heart of the Controlled Substances Act. Congress really wanted to seriously regulate this particular drug in all of its forms,” said Robert L. Tsai, an assistant professor at the University of Oregon School of Law. By contrast, he added, it’s hard to say “that the dispensing of certain drugs to ease one’s death really goes to the heart of the Controlled Substances Act.”

In the assisted suicide case the court said the U.S. attorney general exceeded the power Congress had given him under the law. That ruling, say experts, could suggest how the court is leaning in other coming executive-power cases, including the handling of enemy combatants and warrantless surveillance by the National Security Agency. Said Willamette University law professor Valerie Vollmar: “The majority is saying, ‘Wait a minute, there are limits to what you, the attorney general, can do on behalf of the executive branch,’ ” Vollmar said. “The dissenters are saying you can almost do anything. That’s a pretty extreme position. And I think it’s of concern that Chief Justice Roberts signed onto the dissent.”

Link: http://www.oregonlive.com/news/oregonian/index.ssf?/base/news/1137655648176230.xml&coll=7

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