The Corner

Questions For Adler

You’ve half-convinced me, Jonathan. I have a few questions, though, as I try to think this issue through: 1) As I understand it, your view is that in applying the federal law allowing the use of certain drugs only for legitimate medical uses, state law tells you what those legitimate uses are. So a state law that expressly says that killing people is legitimately medical makes that proposition true, in that state, for purposes of federal law. What about a state that takes no official position on the question, assuming (perhaps mistakenly) that such use of drugs is already forbidden by federal law? Would the absence of a state prohibition imply that prescribing drugs to kill people is a legitimate medical use of drugs in that state, and that the federal law has to abide by that assumption? 2) I agree that congressmen have a duty not to vote for laws they believe are unconstitutional, even if the courts have not so held. Does the executive branch have a duty not to enforce such laws? Do individual agencies or officials within the executive have such a duty? If, let’s say, a prohibition on the medical use of marijuana exceeds the constitutional powers of the Congress, but the courts have not yet gotten around to saying so, is John Ashcroft obligated not to try to enforce that law?

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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