Justice Clarence Thomas is one of the most conservative Justices on the Supreme Court. One of the core tenants of his conservatism is a firm belief in federalism—a political principle that prioritizes the sovereignty of the states over that of the federal government. The strength of his conviction has led to some fascinating deviations from the country’s and the court’s conservative majority.
Like calling for federal cannabis policy reform.
SCOTUS recently declined to hear a case out of the Tenth Circuit challenging the constitutionality of denying federal tax benefits to cannabis businesses. Thomas used the denial of certiorari as an opportunity to call for the Court to reconsider its previous stance on federal cannabis prohibition.
Thomas’s argument questions the precedent established by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Gonzales v. Raich. 545 U.S. 1 (2005). The plaintiff in Gonzalez was a California citizen growing cannabis plants on private property, in compliance with state law. The federal government seized those plants to enforce federal prohibition.
The issue was whether the plaintiff’s activity counted as a form of “interstate commerce” subject to federal enforcement. The Commerce Clause confers powers onto Congress to regulate only interstate commerce, the flow of economic activity between States,