The United States Supreme Court last week declined to take up a pair of cases that challenged a state’s decision to not include medical cannabis in its workers’ compensation program.
Given all of the seismic activity in the high court as of late, you are forgiven if you missed that.
From abortion to guns to prayer in school, the emboldened, conservative Supreme Court has taken on seemingly every hot button issue but cannabis, issuing a series of decisions that are poised to reshape American life and deepen the country’s polarization.
No decision rendered by the court in the last week—or perhaps in the last 50 years—has inflamed passions and divided the nation more than Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe v. Wade and ended the constitutional right to an abortion.
In a 6-3 ruling, the court’s conservative justices effectively handed abortion policy back to the states. The result was swift, with outright abortion bans taking effect immediately in a handful of states: South Dakota, Wisconsin, Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Alabama. A number of other states with their own highly restrictive abortion laws also were triggered by the ruling.
In overturning Roe, which had enshrined the right to an abortion in the United States for nearly 50 years, the court essentially laid the groundwork for a country in which abortion is widely available in liberal blue states, but severely restricted—if not outlawed completely—in conservative red states.
“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the majority opinion. “Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences.”
The court’s liberal bloc wrote a scathing dissenting opinion.
“With sorrow—for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection—we dissent,” the three justices wrote jointly.
The decision sparked immediate nationwide protests and is poised to animate this year’s midterm elections and the 2024 presidential campaign.
A day before it announced its decision in Dobbs, the Supreme Court handed down another decision that will likely have ripple effects throughout the country.
In a 6-3 ruling, the court struck down New York’s century-old law that imposes strict limits on an individuals’ ability to carry a gun outside their home.
Writing for the majority, Justice Clarence Thomas asserted that the Second Amendment ensures “an individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home.”
The law, which had been in place since 1911, required “applicants for a license to carry a gun outside of their homes to have a ‘proper cause’ to do so,” according to NBC News.
Per The New York Times, the decision “is expected to spur a wave of lawsuits seeking to loosen existing state and federal restrictions and will force five states — California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey, home to a quarter of all Americans — to rewrite their laws.”
On Monday, the Supreme Court continued its string of contentious decisions by ruling in favor of a Seattle area high school football coach who conducted a prayer at the 50-yard-line following his team’s games.
In yet another 6-3 ruling, the court’s majority said that the coach’s ritual is protected under the First Amendment.
“Respect for religious expressions is indispensable to life in a free and diverse republic — whether those expressions take place in a sanctuary or on a field, and whether they manifest through the spoken word or a bowed head,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the majority.
The coach, Joseph Kennedy, had been suspended by the school district when he refused to stop the post-game prayer.
Gorsuch contended that Kennedy’s prayers were done quietly and discreetly, a point that Justice Sonia Sotomayor fiercely disputed.
In her dissenting opinion, Sotomayor noted that “Kennedy consistently invited others to join his prayers and for years led student-athletes in prayer.” Her opinion also included a photo of Kennedy kneeling in prayer with a large group of players. The prayer resulted in undue pressure on members of the team, Sotomayor argued.
“Students look up to their teachers and coaches as role models and seek their approval,” Sotomayor wrote. “Students also depend on this approval for tangible benefits. Players recognize that gaining the coach’s approval may pay dividends small and large, from extra playing time to a stronger letter of recommendation to additional support in college athletic recruiting.”
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