I tend to be a pragmatic, rather than a dogmatic, federalist. What I mean by that is that I support federalism for the pragmatic reason that it tends to slow statism, rather than a dogmatic belief that federalism is somehow morally superior. Generally, federalism has been good for this country, as it has provided a check to states that go nuts on taxation and over-regulation. The exodus of businesses from the Northeast in the 60's and 70's and from California more recently are examples of this effect at work, as citizens vote with their feet for the regulatory regime they prefer.
The recent decision on medial marijuana, where the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that federal marijuana laws trump state medical-marijuana statutes seems to be another nail in the federalism coffin. One can tell immediately that the ruling is all about federalism (rather than drugs) when you have the spectacle of the three most conservative judges supporting state legalization laws and the most liberal judges ruling for continued marijuana illegality under federal law. Again reading my handy pocket Constitution (courtesy of Cato), it is hard for me to find where the feds have purview over regulating California home-grown pot smoked in California. By accepting the argument below, the Supreme Court has basically ruled that the feds can pretty much regulate intra-state commerce, since you can probably make a similar argument in any case:
lawyers for the U.S. Justice Department argued to the Supreme Court
that homegrown marijuana represented interstate commerce, because the
garden patch weed would affect "overall production" of the weed, much
of it imported across American borders by well-financed, often violent
By the way, think about that for a minute. They are arguing that home-grown weed would "affect" the inter-state commerce of "violent drug gangs". How would it affect it? It would reduce their commerce! So the feds are claiming purview over home-grown pot because it would, what? Unfairly reduce the inter-state trade of violent drug gangs?
Clarence Thomas makes the point succinctly that accepting this argument is the end of the distinction between inter- and intra-state commerce:
Respondents Diane Monson and Angel Raich use marijuana that has never
been bought or sold, that has never crossed state lines, and that has
had no demonstrable effect on the national market for marijuana. If
Congress can regulate this under the Commerce Clause, then it can
regulate virtually anything and the Federal Government is no longer
one of limited and enumerated powers.
Is it just me, or does this Supreme Court seem all over the place in its rulings? Maybe you constitutional scholars out there can figure it out.
Update: More from Reason
More thoughts: The left complains that the right is trying to create a theocracy via the Supreme Court. The right argues that it just wants to protect constitutional limits on government, which the left wants to exceed. I have been and still am suspicious of some conservative judges on the court, but I must say that the way the votes fell in this case certainly hurts the "theocracy" argument. I would start to believe if it wasn't for the fact that in the next case, if recent history is any guide, everyone will likely reverse their positions again.