12/06/04 — OPINION -- What about moonshine?

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OPINION -- What about moonshine?

By Gene Price
Published in News on December 6, 2004 2:01 PM

The U.S. Supreme Court is wrestling with an interesting case involving production of marijuana to be used for medicinal purposes.

Bringing the issue to the nation's highest court were two California women who insist they need marijuana daily to ease pain. California in 1996 passed a law permitting marijuana use for medical purposes. A few other states have followed.

But the current case results from destruction of six marijuana plants by Drug Enforcement Administration agents on the property of one of the women.

While California allows use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, federal law still classifies it as a Schedule I narcotic.

Lawyers for the women have insisted that the marijuana was not in any way involved in interstate commerce, that it was simply for helping an individual cope with pain.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor seems to be buying that view. "None of this home-grown, for-medical use marijuana will be on the interstate market," she observed.

And Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg adds: "No one is buying, no one is selling."

But federal prosecutors scoff at the notion that home-grown products ostensibly grown for home use will not be diverted into interstate trafficking.

And approving home-grown marijuana for at home "medical purposes" apparently could present an enforcement nightmare.

This could be exacerbated by the black market production of certificates of "medical need," in the view of Justice Antonin Scalia.

Some folks in rural eastern North Carolina and in our western mountains might be taking particular interest in the case. The moonshine business has fallen on tough times in recent decades. The California case could spark hope of allowing folks like my old friend Alvin Sawyer to return to his still in the Great Dismal Swamp and run off a few gallons of his fine and famous "corn-squeezings." For medicinal purposes, of course!