Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Gonzales v. Raich case brief

Gonzales v. Raich case brief summary
545 U.S. 1 (2005)

Respondents, claiming a violation of the Commerce Clause, sought injunctive and declaratory relief prohibiting enforcement of the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), 21 U.S.C.S. § 801 et seq., to the extent it prevented them from possessing, obtaining, or manufacturing cannabis for their personal medical use. A district court denied a motion for a preliminary injunction, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed.

Respondents were California residents who suffered from a variety of serious medical conditions and had sought to avail themselves of medical marijuana pursuant to the terms of the Compassionate Use Act, Cal. Health & Safety Code § 11362.5 (2005). After an investigation, county officials concluded that one respondent's use of marijuana was entirely lawful under California law; nevertheless, federal agents seized and destroyed all six of her cannabis plants.


  • The Court held that the regulation of marijuana under the CSA was squarely within Congress' commerce power because production of marijuana meant for home consumption had a substantial effect on supply and demand in the national market. 
  • Given the enforcement difficulties in distinguishing between marijuana cultivated locally and marijuana grown elsewhere, 21 U.S.C.S. § 801(5), and concerns about diversion into illicit channels, the Court had no difficulty concluding that Congress had a rational basis for believing that failure to regulate the intrastate manufacture and possession of marijuana would leave a gaping hole in the CSA.
  • Congress was acting well within its authority of the Commerce Clause, U.S. Constitutional, art. I, § 8.
The judgment of the Court of Appeals was vacated. The case was remanded for further proceedings.

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