Monday, April 08, 2013

The Limits of Federal Power

I'll add nothing, letting the clip from this post speak for itself:
The Supreme Court said that in a unanimous 1925 opinion which held that the Harrison Narcotics Act could not be used to prosecute doctors who prescribe narcotics to addicts. (Previous rulings had led the DEA’s federal precursors to state that “An order purporting to be a prescription issued to an addict or habitual user of narcotics, not in the course of professional treatment but for the purpose of providing the user with narcotics sufficient to keep him comfortable by maintaining his customary use, is not a prescription within the meaning or intent of the Act: and the person filling such an order, as well as the person issuing it, may be charged with violation of the law.”)
The court added this:
Federal power is delegated, and its prescribed limits must not be transcended even though the end seems desirable.
The opinion — Linder v. United States (268 U.S. 5, 1925) — even has its own Wiki entry, which notes pithily:
With the passage of myriad later laws, including the Controlled Substance Act which gives no exemption whatsoever to Schedule I drugs, and the end of Lochner era, the holding of Linder has now been mostly overruled or superseded.
Yeah, I would say so. But what accounts for this usurpation of power?
My question is, if it was obvious to a unanimous Supreme Court that “direct control of medical practice in the states is beyond the power of the federal government” in 1925, and we still have the same Constitution without a single amendment giving the federal government such power, then what the hell happened?


maxutils said...

Most of our justices are not familiar with the constitution.

allen (in Michigan) said...

Just shows there's nothing new about the desire of those with political power to escape the bounds of the Constitution. But that should be self-evident due to those bounds being in the Constitution.

Auntie Ann said...

My 7th grader had a project on constitutional amendments this year; she was assigned to research prohibition. Along the way, I read what should have been obvious, but had never crossed my mind: prior to prohibition, the idea that the government could go ahead and ban something was ridiculous. Everyone agreed that the Feds had no such power.

That is *why* it required a constitutional amendment to ban alcohol.

After repeal, apparently, people forgot that you couldn't ban something without amending the constitution.