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Emerald Steel Fabricators, Inc. v. Bureau of Labor and Industries

    Brief Fact Summary.

    An Oregon statute authorizes the use of medical marijuana. However, under the Controlled Substance Act (CSA), the use of marijuana, for any purpose, is prohibited.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    A congressional statue that compels a statute to criminalize a particular conduct does not preempt the state statute.

    Facts.

    An Oregon statute authorizes the use of medical marijuana. However, under the Controlled Substance Act (CSA), the use of marijuana, for any purpose, is prohibited. Congress did not intend to limit the way marijuana can be used, but created a blanket prohibition of the use of marijuana.

    Issue.

    Whether, under the doctrine of implied preemption, a state law authorizing the use of medical marijuana is an obstacle in hindrance of Congress’ purpose of enacting the federal statute.

    Held.

    No, under the doctrine of implied preemption, a state law authorizing the use of medical marijuana is an obstacle in hindrance of Congress’ purpose of enacting the federal statute.

    Dissent.

    The CSA explicitly prohibits the same conduct that the Oregon statute authorizes, creating an obstacle to Congress’ purpose and objective under the CSA.

    Discussion.

    This Court has previously applied the physical impossibility preemption rule very narrowly. In Barnett Bank v. Nelson, 517 U.S. 25 (1996), the Court held that it was physically impossible for national banks to comply with two statutes, one, a federal statute that permits national banks to sell insurance, and two, a state statute that forbids national banks to sell insurance. Although the Court noted a national bank could simply refrain from selling insurance, complying with both statutes, the court evaluated whether such conduct would result in an obstacle hindering Congress’ purpose and objective. Ultimately, the court held that the state statute was preempted because it stood as an obstacle to Congress’ objective. Additionally, in Michigan Canners & Freezers Association v. Agriculture Marketing and Bargaining Bd., the court evaluated a federal law that prohibited food producer associations from interfering with an individual food producers decision on how to market or sell his or her own products and a state law that permitted food producer associations from interfering as the exclusive bargaining agent. The court held that the state statute is an obstacle to Congress’ objectives under the federal statute, and the state statute is preempted. Here, the court does not dispute that Congress has the proper authority to enact laws that preempt state law. Nevertheless, the court finds that Congress does not have the authority to compel a state, Oregon, to criminalize a particular conduct.  Therefore, the Oregon statute is not impliedly preempted by the CSA.


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