Law Experts: US Supreme Court Ruling on Sports Betting May Favor Legal Marijuana

Some marijuana advocates see the potential for legalization on the horizon after the landmark ruling by the US Supreme Court Monday, May 14, 2018 that overturned a federal ban on sports betting.

In Monday’s decision, the Supreme Court voted 7-2 to strike down a 1992 federal law and 6-3 to declare unconstitutional the entire law that had effectively banned commercial sports betting in most states.

The case, known as Murphy v. NCAA, was based on the Constitution’s so-called anti-commandeering doctrine, enshrined in the 10th amendment, which holds that the federal government cannot force state or local governments to act against their will.

“Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each State is free to act on its own,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his majority opinion, which found that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 did indeed commandeer power from the states in order to regulate their own gambling industries.

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), says it could have positive implications for legalization in terms of states’ rights.

“There certainly is the possibility that the same anti-commandeering legal doctrine may well end up helping in other areas,” said Keith Stroup, founder in 1970 and legal counsel for NORML, the oldest and largest cannabis legalization group in the country.

David Holland, a New York attorney and executive and legal director of Empire State NORML, said the ruling could set a precedent if marijuana is descheduled.

“Today’s ruling is significant with regard to issues of state’s rights and legalizing prevalent behaviors within society,” Holland told “Were cannabis to be descheduled, the ruling would permit the states to police activity within their own borders like gambling or safe and responsible cannabis consumption without further federal regulation or interference.”

Holland added that such a move would only reclassify cannabis, and “not free it from the clutches of the CSA [Controlled Substance Act] and therefore today’s ruling may not create a means to outright legalization unless [cannabis]is descheduled.”

Attorney Randy Barnett, a Georgetown University law professor in Washington, D.C., and author, argued the Gonzales vs. Raich case before the US Supreme Court. Barnett argued on behalf of two Californians, Angel Raich and Diane Monson, who were entitled to possess medical cannabis under California’s Proposition 215. In a 6-3 ruling, the justices in 2005 affirmed that the federal government’s ban on marijuana supersedes state laws that allow it.

This is entirely different than Raich, which did not authorize Congress to tell California what its medical marijuana policy must be,” Barnett tweeted shortly after Monday’s ruling. “But it does suggest that state schemes actively regulating marijuana (like CA & CO) are safe from a preemption challenge.”

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