We submit to you, Dear Readers, the case of Chris Williams as a cautionary tale of an out-of-control federal government that refuses to recognize the sovereignty of the several states as enshrined in the US Constitution. The federal government does not exist to destroy individual freedom or state sovereignty.
In 2004, Montana voters passed the Montana Medical Marijuana Act by popular referendum. It wasn’t close–the law passed with a 62 percent majority of votes cast. The law legalized the growing, distribution, and sale of marijuana to customers who had a certified medical need. State residents could pay an application fee and submit a request to be a registered cardholder of the state’s Medical Marijuana Program. All applicants were required to obtain a physician’s certification that they are suffering from a debilitating medical condition. By 2011, Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services confirmed approximately 30,000 state residents were enrolled in the program.
In 2009, the Obama administration via the Department of Justice announced that prosecution of marijuana cases in states with medical marijuana laws would be a low priority. Following these statements in 2009, Williams and 3 business partners opened Montana Cannabis.
Williams and his partners established what they felt was a responsible model for medical marijuana providers. As reported in Montana’s Independent Record, ” [Williams] said they set up a legitimate business model in 2009 that would be the ‘gold standard’ for other medical marijuana providers to follow. [Montana Cannabis] had an open door policy, hosting tours for legislators, law enforcement officers and even the chief narcotic officer for the state. They hired accountants, paid taxes and tracked all of their plants ‘from the time they had roots to their harvest’ and as well as when they were being packed and distributed.”
Compounding the situation in the eyes of federal prosecutors was the fact that Williams carried a pistol for protection, in accordance with his Second Amendment rights. But to federal prosecutors, this means Williams was in possession of firearms while committing a drug trafficking felony.
Williams faces nearly 50 years in prison for violating federal drug laws, which consider marijuana to be a Schedule I Controlled Substance. At his trial, the Independent Record article goes on to state that Williams and his attorney were not permitted to discuss the Montana law because the judge ruled “Montana laws…weren’t pertinent to the case and he didn’t allow any mention of them before jurors or as a defense.” Jurors in the case were prevented from even hearing the defense that Williams believed his actions were consistent with state law.
We disagree. On many fronts.
1. The US Constitution grants legislative powers “herein granted” to Congress. If the Constitution does not specifically and explicitly grant Congress authority, then the federal government has none. We do not recognize regulation of marijuana grown, sold, and distributed within a state’s borders to be a federal issue warranting an unlawful excursion of federal power into state sovereignty.
2. The oft-abused “Interstate Commerce Clause” which Congress has relied upon for a host of federal abuses of authority ranging from passing laws about highway speeds to Obamacare does not apply. Montana voters approved their medical marijuana law which impacts residents of Montana. State residents may cultivate, distribute, sell, or grown their own plants for their own purposes within the state’s borders.
3. The Tenth Amendment says simply, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” It doesn’t take a law degree to understand this simple statement–though federal prosecutors and a federal judge in Montana seem to be giving it their best effort either to not understand the simplicity of the statement–or to outright ignore it.
We conclude the federal government does not have lawful authority under the Constitution to prosecute citizens who are lawfully following their state’s laws regarding marijuana usage. The federal government cannot effectively micromanage issues that are best left to the states. The United States is too complex and too large for such a federal government to be able to successfully run so many aspects of our lives without being destructive to the freedom and liberty that it exists to protect. With a broken immigration system, ballooning federal debt and deficits, a stalled economy, rising unemployment, we see the federal government clearly has other challenges that it should be focusing on rather than worrying about infringing on a citizens rights and freedom to conduct lawful activity within their own state borders.
It is our sincere hope that the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals will overturn this trial court’s verdict and speedily return Mr. Williams to the freedom that he deserves. His courage to stand up for his rights should be commended and serve as an example to all!
Editor’s Note: As of posting time 11/15/12 18 states and the District of Columbia have legalized various levels of medical marijuana programs. As of 11/6/12, two states (Colorado and Washington) have legalized “adult use” of marijuana by popular referendum.
Photo Credit: JonRichfield