Freedom in One Word

Now that Heath Care legislation has passed, the obvious question for opponents is this: Now what? My answer is best summed up with just one word:


No, I don’t mean that you should go out and smoke away your anger and frustration. Instead, you should feel empowered. The best way to explain this is by telling the story of a disabled mother from Northern California.

Angel’s Story

Angel Raich has been permanently disabled since 1995. She has an inoperable brain tumor, a seizure disorder and other serious medical conditions. In 1997, her doctor felt that marijuana would be an effective medication.

Angel used homegrown marijuana, and she and her physician claim that it’s helped significantly. You may not agree with Angel’s choice, but it’s one made in accordance with California state law, which allows for such use. The federal government, however, has not shown much respect for state laws in recent decades, and chose to take action. After DEA agents seized and destroyed all six of her marijuana plants, she sued to stop them from doing so again.

The suit went all the way to the Supreme Court, and in Gonzales v Raich, Angel lost. The 2005 ruling made clear that the federal government did not recognize state laws authorizing the use of marijuana – in any situation.

The Commerce Clause 

The court ruled that control over a plant grown and consumed on one’s own property was authorized under the “Interstate Commerce Clause” of the Constitution. Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 of the Constitution empowers Congress to “regulate…commerce among the several states.” It has never been amended.

Like any legal document, if the words of the Constitution mean today what they meant at the moment it was signed, we must understand just what those words meant at the time of its ratification.

There’s been a lot of scholarly research on this clause, especially the word “commerce” itself. Without getting into the long details of it all, it means this: Congress is authorized to make uniform national rules on the trade and exchange of goods (and related activities like their transportation) that cross state borders. On top of it, the word “regulate” meant to “make regular” – that is, to specify how these transactions may be conducted. Regulate did not mean ban, prohibit, or mandate. These words have different meanings.

With this in mind, the Supreme Court, which is not a set of nine infallible gods, ruled incorrectly. But rule, they did. Thus, all three federal branches agreed that State-level laws allowing marijuana were a no-go. In his dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas gave a stark warning:

If the Federal Government can regulate growing a half-dozen cannabis plants for personal consumption…then Congress’ Article I powers…have no meaningful limits. Whether Congress aims at the possession of drugs, guns, or any number of other items, it may continue to appropria[te] state police powers under the guise of regulating commerce.

Resist DC

Even though she lost the case, Angel indicated she’d continue to use marijuana. At the time of the ruling, there were 10 states that had such laws. Not one of them has been repealed. Since then, another 4 states have passed similar laws, and many others are considering them, including South Dakota, Kansas, and New Hampshire.

Today, over half a million people are registered users of medical marijuana, and estimates say that millions more use the plant without registration. What’s been the result? The federal government will occasionally arrest some high-profile users, but taken in the perspective of the multitudes consuming the plant, the threat is quite low.

And, in mid-2009, recognizing a need for “efficient and rational use of its limited investigative and prosecutorial resources,” the Justice Department announced that it would back off the prosecution of medical marijuana patients even further.


You might be asking, “How does this apply to healthcare mandates?” Well, the answer is pretty simple. When enough states pass laws defying federal laws, and enough people actively defy them too, D.C. simply doesn’t have the manpower to arrest and prosecute all of us.

This kind of activism – while it clearly carries personal risk – should be a real blueprint for people that have been consistently unable to find constitutional relief in Congress, the Executive, or the Courts.

Marijuana users: Love ‘em or hate ‘em, but show some respect for them, as many have suffered greatly for doing what they believe is right. People who believe strongly about other issues, like healthcare mandates, would do well to learn from them.

What should be done about federal control over health care? The same thing that should be done for every unconstitutional federal law, regulation, or mandate – Nullify Now.

Michael Boldin [send him email] is the founder of the Tenth Amendment Center. Read other articles by Michael, or visit Michael's website.

8 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Melissa said on March 25th, 2010 at 10:19am #

    Hello Michael!

    Sovereignity is key right now for a Federal Government gone mad and out of control. Thank you for supporting constitutional restrictions on laws that are ONLY supposed to apply to the 10 square miles of D.C.

    That’s right, the Fed Government’s laws only apply to the 10 square miles that are the District of Columbia, and their employees. We citizens of the various states are all under the impression that the Demopublicans and Justices of D.C. are the highest authority, but that is wrong.

    I have a gubernatorial candidate that gets this sovereignity concept, as well as the importance of environmental protection, sustainable energy production, clean agriculture, the dangers and discrimination of the for-profit prison system in conjuction with the “war” on drugs, debt-free wealth creation of, by and for the people of the state, and is a NORML speaker with plans to reinvigorate small farming, alt energy and economy with hemp production.

    Time to wake up, America! The labels are meaningless, look at the candidate, their platform, the track-record of their actions.

    Wake up! Wake up! Wake up! Take your states and give the unresponsive, punitive and enslaving Fed the bird! Reason trumps dogma, start thinking and moving your feet NOW.

    Sorry for all of the exclamations, Michael, and others. I am ready to buck the whole charade and loyalty – to – single – issues – divide – and – conquer games. I hope we all see the logic and reason soon.

    As always,
    Peace, Resistance, Hope,
    Mpls, MN

  2. Danny Ray said on March 25th, 2010 at 10:56am #

    You are right Melissa, as usual; The Feds have only the right to coin money, regulate international trade and keep a standing army. However, you can claim States rights all you want, but until the Federal courts “really” recognizes the tenth amendment to the bill of rights you will be going nowhere.

    Amendment X
    The powers not delegated, to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

    The way the federal government gets around this amendment is by quoting the commerce clause which says,

    That congress shall have the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations, the several states and the Indian tribes.

    ( I know, I know, Native Americans, Don’t blame me its in the constitution)

    For 100 years (Wilson was the first to use it) the government has been using this to regulate things they do not like. To tie this into the above article we have Federal drug laws and the DEA, due to Harry S. Anslinger and the Commerce Clause, They use it to regulate Guns, food products, drugs, sports etc. the commerce clause was used to prove the legality of prohibition and no court has ever told the government that it was not constitutional.

    Now all that being said the left has used the CC to get what they wanted for a long time, for example, Gun control laws, seat belt laws, etc. so before you do away with the commerce clause please think that the left will get more from the federal government that they will ever get from state and local governments.

    We southerners tried that states rights thing once and we have the ashes of Atlanta, Ga. and Columbia SC as well as a ruined economy for a hundred years to show for it. Every time the commerce clause is used the soul of John C Calhoun shivers.

  3. Michael Boldin said on March 25th, 2010 at 12:04pm #

    I think the federal expansion of power has been a double-edged sword for me. While it obviously has resulted in many things progressives support as Danny correctly points out, it has also resulted a lot of bad things too.

    –hundreds of thousands of people being arrested – disproportionately minorities – for owning and consuming a plant.

    –endless unconstitutional and immoral wars that have resulted in the murder of millions

    –health care “reform” which requires us to give our hard-earned money to the very corporations that many of us revile – the insurance industry

    –torture, loss of habeas corpus, free speech zones, and the list goes on.

    My view is that all this has gone on far too long, and maybe we need to consider a different strategy – of recognizing that these corporate-backed thugs in D.C. just can’t be trusted with all the money and power we’ve allowed them – they end up using it to murder, and destroy.

    Well, that’s my rant. I’m honored that D.V. chose to run my article…

  4. Michael Boldin said on March 25th, 2010 at 12:16pm #

    @Dan – it’s “racist” of me to oppose the drug war and the murder of millions by American foreign policy? I can’t think of a more absurd thing for you to say than that.

    You may not agree with me on how to stop the government from doing those things – but I can tell you one thing something needs to be done about it. I’m sure the peace candidate has some drones killing people in Pakistan as we speak.

    In my opinion, the most racist organization in the world today is the US federal government – responsible for the deaths of millions of brown people around the world in the last few decades.

  5. Bryce Shonka said on March 25th, 2010 at 2:18pm #

    What’s different between the current state sovereignty movement and the southern states of the civil war era? For starters, geography. Resisting DC has been happening here in California for 14 years now, when one considers the Compassionate Use Act. The fact is that thousands of small businesses in Cailfornia are conducting transactions that the Federal government considers criminal. The current map of 10th Amendment activity is all over the republic, not just one area.

    Success in reeling in the rampaging Federal beast relies on the safety of our numbers, for a single state could never stand up to DC for long. The fact is that civil disobedience occurring in even 35 states would be very difficult to crush, particularly if the people of those states feel that they are siding with the US Constitution.

  6. Danny Ray said on March 25th, 2010 at 2:47pm #

    I am with you Bryce. We need to teach people what the constitution really is, we need to teach the bill of right to anyone who will listen, not just freedom of speech, press, religion and freedom from self-incrimination and illegal searches. But the 10th about what the government can not do. And the 2nd about what we can do to stop the government. People not only need to understand what the government can do for us but that the government cannot do.

  7. Deadbeat said on March 25th, 2010 at 2:48pm #

    This kind of activism – while it clearly carries personal risk – should be a real blueprint for people that have been consistently unable to find constitutional relief in Congress, the Executive, or the Courts.

    I have to agree with the above sentiment. Another area of resistance should be debt repudiation. People have been forced into debt because the gov’t restricts workers right to organize and form unions which would have enabled them to negotiate for better pay.

    However fundamentally the problem is capitalism and the government functions for the advancement of private profits. Until that is altered we’ll continue bantering these types of issues.

  8. Rehmat said on March 26th, 2010 at 6:10am #

    The recent victim of the “Drug War” is Afghanistan.

    The occupation of Afghanistan was planned by Bush Zionist administration long before the Big Bang on September 11, 2001. Therefore, it has nothing to do with so-called Al-Qaeda or Osama Bin Laden or the War on Terror or liberstion of Afghan women from Taliban Islamic fundamentalist regime – because those excuses have long been proven to be as much lies as “Saddam Hussein has WMDs” and the “Jews have Biblical right to occupy Palestine”.

    Afghan Triangle: Opium, oil and Taliban

    Afghanistan – West’s Drugstore