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An Introduction to Constitutional Law » Gonzales v. Raich

An introduction to Constitutional Law 100 Supreme Court cases everyone should know

Randy E. Barnett & Josh Blackman

Angel Raich, was suffering from several intractable illnesses — including a brain tumor — which had caused a wasting syndrome. Her weight loss threatened her life. A nurse suggested that she try marijuana. The controlled substance allowed Raich to regain weight and strength. Diane Monson, another Californian, used medical marijuana to relieve her back pains and spasms, which had not responded to conventional therapy. Because the federal government seized Monson’s plants, she had a concrete injury, and “standing,” to bring the challenge.

Randy Barnett and his legal team filed a civil suit to halt the enforcement of the CSA against Angel and Diane. Critically, neither Plaintiff purchased marijuana. Angel’s caregivers grew the cannabis and gave it to her at no charge. Diane grew her own plants, and thus did not have to buy it. The plaintiffs contended that, under the limiting principle established by Lopez and Morrison, Congress could not regulate this entirely intrastate non-economic activity. Furthermore, because no items used to cultivate the marijuana had ever traveled in interstate commerce, there was no jurisdictional hook.

Angel and Diane lost in the Northern District of California but prevailed in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. On appeal, Barnett argued on behalf of Angel and Diane before the Supreme Court.

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