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LEGAL MATTERS ROOM GUIDE

8.  UNITED STATES V. BUTLER, 297 U.S. I, 1936.

COMMENTARY SUBMITTED TO THE LOS ANGELES TIMES: DEC. 7, 2000.

RE: States Rights and Medical Marijuana.

The question of States Rights and medical marijuana has been decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, in 1936. The present U.S. Supreme Court has accepted a case on medical marijuana, so I would like to enter one of my findings as a student of marijuana history. This argument came to me in a yard-sale book, The Development of the Constitution, by Percy Fenn, 1948. At home the book fell open on my desk to page 730, where the following passage from a tobacco tax case caught my eye:

"In United States v. Butler, 297 U.S. I, 1936, we (U.S. Supreme Court) held the federal government without power to control farm production."

It happened this case was also in the Fenn book on page 391.  U.S. v. Butler, 1936, contains in the strongest language imaginable what delegated powers are all about. While the crop in question is cotton, the principle applies to both marijuana (Cannabis) and hemp as historically important in U.S. agriculture. Prior to 1937 medical marijuana was called Cannabis and was grown by the major drug companies. Both crops were unconstitutionally taxed into prohibition one year later, 1937, by the Marijuana Tax Act. 

The following quotes are from the U.S. Supreme Court in U.S. v. Butler:

    "another principle embedded in our Constitution prohibits the enforcement of the Agricultural Adjustment Act. The act invades the reserved rights of the states. It is a statutory plan to regulate and control agricultural production, a matter beyond the powers delegated to the federal government. The tax, the appropriation of the funds raised, and the direction for their disbursement, are but parts of the plan. They are but means to an unconstitutional end.

    "From the accepted doctrine that the United States is a government of delegated powers, it follows that those not expressly granted, or reasonably to be implied from as such are conferred, are reserved to the states or to the people. To forestall any suggestion to the contrary, the Tenth Amendment was adopted. The same proposition, otherwise stated, is that powers not granted are prohibited. None to regulate agricultural production is given, and therefore legislation by Congress for that purpose is forbidden.

"It is an established principle that the attainment of a prohibited end may not be accomplished under the pretext of the exertion of powers which are granted.

"The power of taxation, which is expressly granted, may, of course, be adopted as a means to carry into operation another power also expressly granted. But resort to the taxing power to effectuate an end which is not legitimate, not within the scope of the Constitution, is obviously inadmissible." [Emphasis mine]

The present Supreme Court must recognize and rectify this injustice, by recognizing that medical Cannabis (marijuana) and industrial hemp were and are agricultural crops and are beyond the scope of the federal government.

Richard M. Davis, Curator.    U.S.A. Hemp Museum.

LEGAL MATTERS ROOM GUIDE

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