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Question: What is the Supremacy Clause and the Doctrine of Federalism?

Posted by David Holland | Apr 25, 2021 | 0 Comments

**For a comprehensive discussion on Supremacy, Nullification, and whether the Government can be restrained from enforcing the Schedule I designation of cannabis under the CSA, please see the synopsis and internal links to the Amicus Brief filed in Washington v. Sessions, please look here: Filed Amicus Brief in United States Supreme Court on behalf of NORML, NYCCIA and HVCIA. | Law Offices of David Clifford Holland, PC (

            The Supremacy Clause is not an independent source of rights but a rule of priority that determines who wins when state and federal law conflict.  Andrews v. Maher, 525 F.2d 113, 118-19 (2d Cir.1975)(“The Supremacy Clause does not secure rights to individuals; it states a fundamental structural principle of Federalism.”).


Supreme Court held in Gonzales v. Raich held that because of the Commerce and Supremacy Clauses, the federal government could regulate and prosecute purely intrastate activities related to medical marijuana. 545 U.S. 1, 27-28, 125 S.Ct. 2195, 162 L.Ed.2d 1 (2005)

-           Rationale draws upon the “dormant commerce” clause and precedent of Wickard v. Filburn wheat production case.

-           “To the extent Congress' opinion on the subject differs from California's, “[t]he Supremacy Clause unambiguously provides that if there is any conflict between federal and state law, federal law shall prevail.” Raich, 125 S.Ct. at 2211-2212.

“Congress expressly found that the drug has no acceptable medical uses”  Raich, 125 S.Ct. at 2211.

“We acknowledge that evidence proffered by respondents in this case regarding the effective medical uses for marijuana, if found credible after trial, would cast serious doubt on the accuracy of the findings that require marijuana to be listed in Schedule I.”

Raich, 545 U.S. 1, 28 n. 37, 125 S.Ct. 2195, 162 L.Ed.2d 1 (2005) [Emphasis Added].

About the Author

David Holland

As Executive Director of Empire State NORML and President of the New York City Cannabis Industry Association, David has been a leading advocate in the cannabis space for over 20 years. He has represented clients in marijuana related proceedings everywhere from traffic court to the United States Supreme Court, and he helped obtain clemency for five elderly prisoners servicing life without parole for marijuana. David also handles complex civil and criminal litigation in other areas including employment, First Amendment, and business.


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