June 29, 2021 – Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas called the federal government’s marijuana laws “inconsistent” on Monday and said they “may no longer be necessary.”
The court ruled not to hear an appeal from a Colorado medical marijuana dispenser that has been denied state tax breaks that other companies can claim. Thomas said the 2005 Supreme Court ruling making marijuana possession illegal may be out of date, especially now that state and state policies on the matter have been mixed.
“Once it is comprehensive, the federal government’s current approach is a half-in-half-out regime that both tolerates and prohibits local marijuana use,” he wrote in a dissenting statement.
“This contradicting and unstable state of affairs weighs down the basic principles of federalism and hides traps for the unwary,” he said.
In the past 16 years, federal politics have “severely undermined the reasons for the 2005 decision,” said Thomas. To date, 36 states allow the use of medical marijuana while 18 allow recreational use. But federal tax law only allows marijuana companies to deduct the cost of goods sold, not business expenses such as rent and employee salaries.
“Under this rule, a company that is still in the red after paying its workers and leaving the lights on could still owe a sizable federal income tax,” wrote Thomas.
In 2009 and 2013, the Justice Department ordered federal prosecutors not to pursue lawsuits against marijuana companies as long as they followed state laws, NBC News reported. Every year since 2015, Congress has prevented the department from using federal funds to prevent states from enacting their own marijuana laws. At the same time, the IRS continues to enforce its own regulations against marijuana growers and traders, the news agency reported.
“A ban on the domestic use or cultivation of marijuana may no longer be necessary or appropriate to support the federal government’s piecemeal approach,” wrote Thomas.
On Monday evening, Thomas’ remarks attracted widespread attention online, according to Newsweek. Historians, politicians, and cannabis advocates have gotten involved on social media and noticed, often with surprise or humor, that the conservative judiciary would take a stand before some left-wing lawmakers on the legalization of marijuana.
“Justice Thomas’ comments reflect what has been evident to the vast majority of Americans for some time,” Erik Altieri, executive director of the pro-legalization group NORML, said in a statement.
“With nearly half of all Americans living in a state where adult marijuana use is completely legal, it is both absurd and problematic for the federal government to continue defining cannabis as a Schedule I Prohibited Controlled Substance,” he said .
The Verge said the Democrats tabled a bill in Congress two weeks ago that would decriminalize cannabis at the federal level. The Drug Policy Reform Act would end criminal penalties for drug possession, clear criminal records, and shift oversight to the Department of Health and Welfare to “emphasize that drug use is a health problem, not a criminal problem”.
WebMD Health News Executive Summary
NBC News: “Clarence Thomas Says Federal Laws Against Marijuana May Be No Longer Required.”
United States Supreme Court: “Standing Akimbo, LLC v United States, Request for Deed.”
United States Supreme Court: “Declaration by Thomas, J., No. 20-645.”
Newsweek: “Justice Clarence Thomas is commended for proposing that the federal marijuana ban be lifted.”
NORML: “The Supreme Court Justice questions whether the federal marijuana ban will remain ‘orderly’.”
The Verge: “Democrats in Congress are introducing a decriminalization law for all drugs, not just weed.”
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