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Gonzales v. Raich

Citation. 545 U.S. 1 (2005)
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Brief Fact Summary.

A medical marijuana user in California sued for an injunction of the Controlled Substances Act so that she could continue legally growing and consuming her own medical marijuana.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

The Commerce Clause reaches to individual growth and consumption of medical marijuana, even when such behavior is legal under state law.


California passed the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, which legalized marijuana for medical purposes by creating an exemption from criminal prosecution for physicians and patients who possess or cultivate marijuana for personal medicinal purposes, with the recommendation and supervision of those physicians.

The United States Controlled Substances Act prohibits possession or cultivating all marijuana.

Raich suffers from a variety of serious medical conditions and uses medical marijuana. She then sued the government for injunctive relief to stop the government from enforcing the Controlled Substances Act and interfering with her right to produce and use medical marijuana under California law.


Does the Commerce Clause include the power to prohibit the local cultivation and use the marijuana in compliance with state law?


Yes, it does.


Justice O’Connor (with Roberts and Thomas)

This issue should be left to the states as “laboratories.” The Controlled Substances Act isn’t usually used to regulate personal cultivation and use, and it shouldn’t in this instance either. Rather, we should let the states experiment with different marijuana regulations to determine the best regulations.

Justice Thomas

Raich’s marijuana has never been bought or sold and has never crossed state lines. It is therefore not part of interstate commerce.


Justice Scalia

It is impossible to distinguish controlled substances manufactured and distributed intrastate from controlled substances manufactured and distributed interstate, and therefore it is appropriate for Congress to regulate.


The issue is whether Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce for medicinal substances encompasses the parts of those markets that are supplied and consumed locally/personally.

Congress can regulate the channels, instrumentalities, and activities that substantially affect interstate commerce. This includes purely local activities that are part of an economic class of activities.

Congress has a rational basis for believing that the California law substantially affects interstate commerce. Additionally, this is an economic activity.

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