For many years, the United States has had a complex and challenging relationship with marijuana. This relationship came to a head in 2005, when the Supreme Court passed a ruling that under the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution, Congress can criminalize the production and use of homegrown cannabis even if state laws allow it for medicinal purposes. However, earlier this month, highly conservative justice Clarence Thomas made a statement saying that due to the recent new federal policies regarding marijuana, federal laws against marijuana use may no longer make sense. Daniel Fung, Watertown, CT resident, and cannabis expert, believes very strongly in the federal decriminalization of marijuana and is excited to see this recent development. Below, Daniel Fung of Watertown, CT, will review Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s statement and hopefully highlight the significance of this statement. 

In a statement on Monday, conservative justice Clarence Thomas responded to a recent court hearing regarding the appeal of a Colorado medicinal marijuana dispensary that was denied federal tax breaks. To this, Clarence Thomas wrote, “A prohibition on interstate use or cultivation of marijuana may no longer be necessary or proper to support the federal government’s piecemeal approach.” 

Today, thirty-six out of fifty states allow the use of medical marijuana, with 18 also allowing its recreational use. However, federal tax law does not allow marijuana businesses to deduct their own business expenses, meaning businesses that may be struggling might still owe significant federal income tax. 

Although the Department of Justice does not allow federal prosecutors to pursue marijuana businesses that follow state laws, the IRS continues to enforce its own penalties against marijuana farms and dispensaries. Clarence Thomas stated that “this willingness to look the other way on marijuana is more episodic than coherent.” Within his five-page statement, Clarence Thomas would go on to say, “Federal policies of the past 16 years have greatly undermined its reasoning,” he said. “The federal government’s current approach is a half-in, half-out regime that simultaneously tolerates and forbids local use of marijuana.” For his final point, Clarence Thomas stated that another consequence of federal prohibition is that many state-legal cannabis operations must operate cash-only due to restrictions on using federally backed financial institutions, and because of this, many marijuana facilities are a target to robbers and burglars.