The case discusses the use of medical marijuana. While people are authorized in the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act to use pot for medical purposes if they have a medical card, the Federal Controlled Substances Act prohibits certain elements, such as manufacturing. An employer is arguing that because the federal laws prohibit possession of pot, he doesn’t need to accommodate his employee’s marijuana use, even though it is being used to “treat a disabling medical condition.”
The question is about whether the employee using the medical marijuana is authorized.
The court concluded that the statutory interpretation was that that use of the marijuana is allowed based on the state’s law, but not by the federal law, which pre-empts the state law. “The Oregon Medical Marijuana Act affirmatively authorizes the use of medical marijuana, in addition to exempting its use from state criminal liability.” Specifically, the text goes on, the person who is in possession of the registry identification card can have the medical marijuana, and it is only subject to certain restrictions. But because the federal law does not allow the marijuana to be exempt from criminal liability, the court ruled that
The court determined that it understands the employer’s argument that the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution requires the court to interpret Oregon’s statues in a consistent way with the federal Controlled Substances Act. This means that there is “without effect” of the Oregon law because it is in contradiction to the federal law that outlaws the marijuana use.
There was a dissenting opinion that allowing medical marijuana is no different from exempting it from being a criminal act. Therefore, it should be assumed that if medical marijuana use is exempted from criminal liability in Oregon, and it is not pre-empted by the federal laws, then the state law that allows marijuana use shouldn’t be pre-empted either. The forfeiture of pre-emption of the allowance of medical marijuana is enacted because it doesn’t interfere with the Controlled Substance Act. The dissention argues that marijuana use also doesn’t interfere with the Controlled Substance Act and shouldn’t be subject to pre-emption either. However, as the case points out, the dissention’s premise is flawed because it assumes that the law exempting the medical marijuana use from liability is valid only because it is not pre-empted.
I think the courts could be more useful if they were able to put their decisions into a language that is more understandable. The wording through much of the case was very technical, and not very clear. When the court explained the areas where the federal pre-empted the state law, there was a lot of uncertainty about the precise areas that were pre-empted. I also didn’t like the way the case would say that the courts agreed with the state law, and then spend a considerable amount of text explaining why, but then they would say that they actually agree more with the federal law because it pre-empts the state law. It would be much simpler to state that the court agrees with the federal law because it is supposed to pre-empt the state law. It could go on to say that the state law would have sanctioned such behavior. But the case study is not logically linear. Furthermore, the court decided to agree with the state on some levels, saying that the federal laws don’t pre-empt those areas, or at least that the court “doesn’t have an opinion” about those areas. I think this country would be better served if the citizens were actually able to understand the rulings and, therefore, have a better understanding of the laws.