Does Neil Gorsuch believe that states’ rights and medical marijuana laws should be respected and protected? Good question and there aren’t a lot of answers just yet.
But, then, after not even two weeks into the Trump administration, we are witnessing history’s most chaotic authoritarian rule via a narcissist’s Twitter account and a radical right wing presidential puppeteer, Stephen Bannon, who just moved into the West Wing and on to the National Security Council.
Onward to the Supreme Court.
Despite Neil Gorsuch’s tenure on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, he has made precious few public pronouncements about marijuana policy.
One way to glean more information, therefore, is to look at his rulings.
In one case, covered by the New York Daily News, Gorsuch ruled on a cannabis industry tax case in which a Colorado dispensary was forced by the IRS to pay taxes on their business expenses, which one normally is allowed to deduct. The dispensary in question deducted theirs but did not wish to disclose the nature of their business, to avoid incriminating themselves because weed is still illegal under federal law.
Gorsuch ruled against the dispensary, although he did go out on a limb and question the government’s strange and confusing federal vs. state government pot laws and the “mixed messages” that continue to confound all of us.
“This case owes its genesis to the mixed messages the federal government is sending these days about the distribution of marijuana,” Gorsuch explained. “So it is that today prosecutors will almost always overlook federal marijuana distribution crimes in Colorado but the tax man never will.”
While Gorsuch did not care for the mixed messages (who does?), he didn’t exactly say which side of the debate he was on.
He went on to wonder how the taxman gets to cash in on a business the feds consider illegal. This begs the question gnawing at many these days: who has the final say and will the federal government respect the will of the people who have voted to legalize marijuana in over half the country?
Another hint on Gorsuch’s stance came out on the Joint Blog, which reported that a former student of Gorsuch’s asked him several years ago whether or not he supported legalization. Gorsuch responded by saying that, at the very least, he supports “the federal government getting out of the business of prohibiting in.” Still not clear what that means, strange grammatical sentence structure notwithstanding.
Gorsuch also acknowledged the Obama administration’s willingness to allow legal marijuana states to work out their own issues. He even expressed concern that everything could come crashing down in the event of a new attorney general.
Apart from his scantly-known views on pot legalization, it is worth noting that the Daily Beast referred Neil Gorsuch as the “dream candidate of the Christian Right” who is “enthusiastically pro-life and conservative on all other issues near and dear to evangelicals who held their noses and who elected a morally flawed president.”
That alone, speaks volumes.