In both the DC Circuit and the 6th Circuit, the two appellate courts that have upheld the health care law, judges relied heavily on a 2005 Supreme Court ruling in Gonzalez v. Raich—a medical marijuana case. That case involved a California woman named Diane Monson who'd been growing marijuana in her backyard for medicinal reasons. (Monson was joined in the case by Angel Raich, a woman who'd also had her medicinal marijuana seized by federal agents.) The DEA swooped in one day and destroyed her plants, even though medical marijuana use in California is legal under state law. The high court found that the Commerce Clause gave Congress wide authority to regulate interstate commerce, even when that commerce takes place mostly in someone's backyard.How's that for unintended consequences? If the US Supreme Court upholds the "individual mandate" in Obamacare, the Tea Party types will mainly have overreach by Big Government drug warriors to blame. The prevailing narrative has it that states rights were radically scaled back first by the Civil War, then Reconstruction and later the destruction of Jim Crow, all of which is true. But less frequently discussed is how, after that, the remnants of states rights were all but annihilated over the ensuing four decades in the name of the drug war, which is why they now are nonexistent when the same mechanisms used to justify the drug war are trotted out to impose national healthcare.
Monson had claimed the DEA's action was unconstitutional and a violation of the Commerce Clause because federal agents were moving to prohibit noncommercial, intrastate cultivation of a plant intended for personal consumption. The pot wasn't crossing state lines—it wasn't even being sold at all. That, the plaintiffs believed, made the weed beyond the reach of the feds.
The Supreme Court would have none of it. In a 6 to 3 decision, the court held that Congress could regulate backyard pot cultivation because it still constituted part of a very large, interstate market. It’s hard to see how the individual mandate doesn't square with that view of the law, given how enormous the national health care market is. Sixth Circuit Judge Jeffery Sutton, a George W. Bush nominee and a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, wrote, "If Congress could regulate Angel Raich when she grew marijuana on her property for self-consumption, it is difficult to say Congress may not regulate the 50 million Americans who self-finance their medical care."
If movement conservatives had to choose, I wonder, would they prefer to end Obamacare but allow Californians to grow pot in their back yards, or would the urgent necessity to regulate medical marijuana justify living with federalized healthcare and mandatory coverage? Which devil do you want to dance with? Like many constitutional liberties, states rights, or its abrogation, is a two-edged sword.