Case Analysis

Gonzales v. Raich


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In the case Gonzales v. Raich, the respondents in this case were Angel Raich and Diane Monson who are California residents who had been using medical marijuana as part of their doctors’ recommendations for dealing with their serious medical conditions. The defendants for this case were the attorney general of the United States and the head of the DEA.


The respondents had been growing and using medical marijuana as part of their doctors’ recommendations for dealing with their serious medical conditions. They had been doing this, full compliance of the state law. Under the Compassionate Act of 1996, voters in California had allowed the use of marijuana for medical purposes to the State’s resident who were medically ill. Despite their compliance to the State’s law, the federal agents seized and destroyed their cannabis plants. The suit brought against the attorney general and head of DEA sought to acquire a restrain on the use of federal Control Substances Act (CSA) in a manner that it would prevent them from having, acquiring, or manufacturing cannabis for their personal medical use.

Raich had indicated that the use of marijuana assisted in keeping her alive as she had been found to have allergic reactions to many of the prescription medicines prescribed for her condition. Her doctor had given expert opinion on the same to court while under oath. On the other hand, Monson used the Marijuana due to the chronic pain due to an accident that she had had.


The respondents indicated that in their case, use of the CSA would be exceeding the Congressional power granted by the constitution granting Congress power to regulate interstate commerce. The case by Raich and Monson was that their marijuana growing and consumption as intra-state and not of commercial use. The district court had denied the respondent’s motion for a preliminary injunction. The Courts of Appeal for the 9th circuit reversed and ordered for a preliminary injunction. The United States appealed against this position.


The respondents’ position was that state-sanctioned personal cultivation of physician-recommended medical marijuana amounted to purely intra-state, legal, and non-commercial activity and that Congress lacked the power to prohibit such conduct. The issues indicated that application of CSA amounted to an unlawful exercise of Congressional power under the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution, which authorizes Congress to regulate interstate commerce.

Applicable Laws

The law which was being applied in this case was the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA). This commerce clause of this law offered the basis for federal regulation in business. Under this clause, the congress is granted power to regulate commerce on international level, between different states, and with Indian Tribe. Reich and Monson indicated that application of the CSA would be an unlawful application of the congressional power.

The consideration of the claims by the plaintiffs saw Court of Appeal rely on two major recent cases that barred the Congress from attain purely local conduct. These were’ the US v. Lopez where court bar a federal law that made it illegal to carry guns near schools, and the US. v. Morrison that had invalidated the Violence Against Women Act of 1994.

In making the decision, the court relied upon a precedent on Wickard v. Filburn that involved a farmer who had been sanctioned under Agricultural Adjustment Act for growing excess where beyond the federal allowable limits for personal use. This law was applied in making the argument that congress could limit the even the person and non-commercial intrastate use of a commodity (Rosebaum, 2005).


In a 6-3 decision the court allowed the use of the commerce clause that allowed the congress to criminalize the production and use homegrown marijuana despite it being allowed for medicinal purposes.


The majority in this case’s decision indicated that even the respondents had made no dispute that the congress had power to control of ban marijuana for non-medical uses. The challenge by the respondents was found to be limited to the fact that the application of CSA to prohibit the manufacture and possession and use medical marijuana with the legal provisions under the State of California laws was acting beyond the powers granted to the congress under the Commerce Clause.

The majority in the court decision indicated that the danger of abuse for cannabis was very high and for this reason it was critical that it remained a totally prohibited substance. The majority reasoned that the fact that for this case, the use of the marijuana was intrastate and with no commercial sale was irrelevant. The court relied on the case of Wickard v. Filburn to get proper test on the limits of the powers of the Congress under Commerce Clause (Rosebaum, 2005).


Rosenbaum, S. (2005). Gonzales V. Raich: Implications for Public Health Policy. Public Health Reports120(6), 680–682.

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