Clarence Thomas argues fed marijuana laws may no longer be needed, throws left for loop

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas appears to have thrown the left for a loop with his dissent in hearing the appeal of a Colorado medical marijuana dispensary that was denied federal tax breaks.

Seen as perhaps the most conservative justice on the high court, Thomas said that because of the hodgepodge of federal policies on marijuana, federal laws against its use or cultivation may no longer be necessary, according to NBC News.

“A prohibition on interstate use or cultivation of marijuana may no longer be necessary or proper to support the federal government’s piecemeal approach,” he said in authoring the court’s dissent.

Federal law lists marijuana as a Schedule I substance, with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

Citing the Supreme Court’s ruling in 2005 upholding federal laws making marijuana possession illegal, Thomas suggested that Congress may need to revisit the issue.

“Federal policies of the past 16 years have greatly undermined its reasoning,” Thomas said. “Once comprehensive, the Federal Government’s current approach is a half-in, half-out regime that simultaneously tolerates and forbids local use of marijuana. This contradictory and unstable state of affairs strains basic principles of federalism and conceals traps for the unwary.”

He further stated that the federal government has sent mixed signals on its views.

“In 2009 and 2013, the Department of Justice issued memorandums outlining a policy against intruding on state legalization schemes or prosecuting certain individuals who comply with state law,” Thomas said. ” In 2009, Congress enabled Washington D.C.’s government to decriminalize medical marijuana under local ordinance. Moreover, in every fiscal year since 2015, Congress has prohibited the Department of Justice from “spending funds to prevent states’ implementation of their own medical marijuana laws.”

In citing the IRS investigating whether a marijuana dispensary’s business deductions violate federal drug laws, he commented on the government’s “willingness to often look the other way on marijuana.”

“This disjuncture between the Government’s recent laissez-faire policies on marijuana and the actual operation of specific laws is not limited to the tax context,” Thomas said. “Many marijuana-related businesses operate entirely in cash because federal law prohibits certain financial institutions from knowingly accepting deposits from or providing other bank services to businesses that violate federal law.”

“Under this rule, a business that is still in the red after it pays its workers and keeps the lights on might nonetheless owe substantial federal income tax,” he said.

As NBC News reported, 36 states permit medical marijuana to be sold, and 18 allow recreational use, but federal tax law does not allow these businesses to deduct their business expenses.

The Democrat-controlled House passed the MORE Act in 2019 to remove marijuana as a Schedule I substance, but the bill failed in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Here’s a quick sampling of some of the responses to the story from Twitter:

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Tom Tillison

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