Clarence Thomas
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
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Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas on Monday indicated that federal marijuana laws “may no longer be necessary or proper to support the federal government’s piecemeal approach” to regulating the drug. His take could have a drastic impact on gun laws.

Thomas’ views were expressed in an opinion on a case the high court declined to hear. In the case, known as Standing Akimbo, LLC v. United States, a medical marijuana dispensary in Colorado sued because the IRS won’t allow it to take the same tax deductions as other businesses because it’s involved in “trafficking in controlled substances.”

According to Thomas, federal laws are all over the board, especially as states move to decriminalize and legalize the medical and/or recreational use of weed.

“Once comprehensive, the Federal Government’s current approach is a half-in, half-out regime that simultaneously tolerates and forbids local use of marijuana,” Thomas wrote. “This contradictory and unstable state of affairs strains basic principles of federalism and conceals traps for the unwary.”

As Thomas indicates, the laws surrounding marijuana can be confusing to many people. Although it’s still a federal crime to use and possess marijuana, a number of states, like California, Washington and Colorado, have legalized and decriminalized its use.

A local cop can pull a resident over, find weed in the car, but not charge them for possession. But if a federal agent, like one from the DEA or ATF, comes into contact with that same person, he or she would face federal drug charges.

Marijuana map legal states

Thomas’ thoughts on marijuana legalization are important, especially as it pertains to guns. As of now, an FFL will deny someone with a state-issued medical marijuana card based on ATF policy. The feds know card holders use marijuana, which – you guessed it – labels them as a prohibited possessor. That card is undeniable proof and can show up in a background check.

If a person decides to use marijuana while also utilizing their gun rights, he or she could face 10 years in prison. Marijuana is still considered a Schedule I substance by the federal government. According to the DEA, Schedule I substances have “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

The Schedule I classification, in itself, is hotly contested. Multiple studies from the NIH have found that two-thirds of all marijuana patients with chronic pain benefited from using the drug. That means marijuana could be accepted for medical use.

The area that trips up many people, however, is question 21.e on the 4473 form:

Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?

Warning: The use or possession of marijuana remains unlawful under Federal law regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medicinal or recreational purposes in the state where you reside.

When a person goes to their local gun store to purchase a firearm, he or she has to check that box on the 4473 form asking whether or not they use any form of marijuana. Checking “yes” results in an automatic denial. Checking “no” — if it’s a lie — can result in 10 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine.

The disconnect between local, state, and federal marijuana laws means a person could be following state law while violating federal law. It also means he or she has to choose between recreational use of marijuana and their gun rights.

It’s a legal trap that’s all too easy to fall into for many who are unaware of the federal prohibition.

marijuana law guns

And that’s why Justice Thomas’s opinion is significant. He has long been among the most conservative Justices on the Court. But his opinion puts him to the left of President Biden on weed use.

Given his conservative bona fides, Thomas’ opinion on a topic like marijuana legalization carries a lot of weight. Legislators who have opposed decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level could be swayed by his opinion as much of the country has trended that way over the past decade.

In April, Alaska Rep. Don Young introduced the GRAM Act in the House to protect the gun rights of legal marijuana users. And Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer says he favors decriminalization.

Whatever you think of marijuana use, a change in federal law would benefit hundreds of thousands — maybe millions — of otherwise legal gun owners and their right to keep and bear arms.


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  1. It was once considered a “gateway” drug, automatically leading to the harder types, heroin etc. Now it’s in the same class as alcohol, at least at the ordinary citizen’s level. It will be interesting to see if there will be any significant changes while the communists have control.

    • Its still a gateway drug. ANY drug user that did NOT start with pot? NO

      Drinking beer does not lead to drinking everclear.

        • “it is unproven propaganda”

          more an observation, which anyone can look around and see for themselves.

      • Users of hard drugs also stated sneaking cigarettes in middle school and raiding their parents liquor cabinet in high school before moving on to pot. People who have an addictive personality seek continually higher thrills from high risk activity.

        The real question is how many of us who tried a cigarette with those future addicts back in middle school went on to be heroin addicts as they did? The idea that people are lured deeper into addiction by marijuana is a political theory that has been thoroughly debunked.

      • Drinking beer does not lead to drinking everclear.

        And smoking marijuana does not lead to heroin.

        • “Drinking beer does not lead to drinking everclear.”

          That’s debatable, from my experience with the Devil’s Water nearly 30 years back, Daniel. Someone ‘Just a beer drinker’ alcoholic is every bit the addicted alcoholic doing shots of the hard stuff. If anything, the Everclear drinker is more efficient, since he spends far less time draining their bladder…

      • You realize you’re juxtaposing two entirely different propositions, right? First, you ask how many hard drug users started with pot, then you ask whether drinking beer leads to drinking everclear – not how many everclear drinkers have tried beer, or how many pot users proceed to hard drugs.

        The question is not how many hard drug users have tried pot – whatever fraction it is, I’m sure even more of them have tried bread or milk. Nor is the question really how many pot users move on to hard drugs, because that tells us nothing about non-pot users doing the same. The real question is how pot use affects the odds of becoming a user of hard drugs.

        • As long as pot is schedule 1, and thus grouped with actual hard drugs, the connection is there. Drug dealers deal, um, DRUGS. Also very rare would be a user of any illegal drugs who didn’t start with alcohol, though it was probably illegal for them at the time due to their age. Illicit substances, for whatever reason, almost certainly lead to exposure to other illicit substances. Making pot legal isn’t going to solve all of the drug problems, and neither will anything else, but it does solve a lot of other problems (incarceration) and decouples pot from other illicit and more dangerous drugs.
          IMO, all drugs should be decriminalized, as regulating what a free and sovereign person puts in their own body is not the government’s business. But we’re a long way from there.

      • Tobacco is the gateway drug.

        Know of any drug user/abuser who doesn’t smoke tobacco? I don’t.

        • An even more controversial supposition might be…

          should blame be applied to the individual, or to the inanimate object?

          Hmm… I could almost swear I’ve heard that argument applied elsewhere… where could that have been?

        • “should blame be applied to the individual, or to the inanimate object?”

          in this case the inanimate object renders the individual unable to act responsibly.

        • “Know of any drug user/abuser who doesn’t smoke tobacco? I don’t.”

          You’re not looking very hard.

          Take the non-drinker, non-pot smoker ‘straight arrow’ who gets in a serious accident needing opiate painkillers longer than a few week’s time. That can, and *has* led to addiction they try to feed with street heroin or Fentanyl.

          There you go, little Miss Goody Two-Shoes teetotaler to needle tracks on her arms in short order…

        • Now it’s in the same class as alcohol, at least at the common citizen’s level. It will be fascinating to phrazle watch whether there will be any big changes while the communists hold power.

      • It was a “gateway drug” because it was illegal. Getting it and using it put people into close contact with people who used and sold more destructive substances. There’s no slippery slope that begins with marijuana and ends with junkies in the gutter simply because someone started smoking weed.

        • ^This^ The same way going to a range is a gateway to committing “gun violence”.

          Because guns cause crime, right?

        • Nasty stuff, a ‘fortified’ wine (spiked with a distilled spirit like brandy).

          Thunderbird ad from the 70s –

          “Thunderbird, the wine with more horsepower…”

      • neiowa, are there any heroin users who didn’t drink a beer before they used heroin? No. Most people try alcohol before they try weed. If there is a gateway drug argument to be had, alcohol is the gateway drug.

        • “neiowa, are there any heroin users who didn’t drink a beer before they used heroin? No.”

          Bullshit. Mess up your back, get put on Oxycontin, then have your prescription cancelled because the DEA thinks your doctor is writing too many scripts.

          Now you’re hooked and looking for black market pain pills just to keep from going through opiate withdrawal (Google opiate withdrawal symptoms. Ugly). Now, when you can’t find Percodan, you’ll take whatever he has, including that packet of powder.

          Hello, needle tracks…

      • I highly doubt you’ve immersed yourself or experienced drug culture enough to make such a generalized assessment. Personally , I’ve lived in West Coast drug culture my whole life and I’ve known hundreds of pot users and only know two of them that have ever tried anything harder. What’s more is some pot users might only partake a few times a year, others regularly, the “reefer madness / gateway drug,” stereotype is built on fantasy not fact. You don’t have a clue what you’re talking about.

    • Opioid epidemic clearly shows that the main gateway drug is legally-prescribed opioids.

      • GUYS!!!!! Read my bloody post you will note the words, “it was once considered….” All this hate and vitriol is uncalled for.

  2. Two issues. 1: You are using logic in your argument and assuming your opponent is motivated by an urge to be logical and consistent.
    2: Weed doesn’t scare the corrupt. Guns do.

  3. One might argue that there is no difference between possessing and utilizing a firearm in a safe, responsible, and legitimate way and possessing and utilizing marijuana in a safe, responsible, and legitimate way.

    It can be argued that those who assert the two are remarkably different might consider dedicating some honest, careful, and introspective contemplation into why they are unable (or unwilling) to grasp the veracity of the above corollary.

    Be smarter.

    • I’m always amazed at the disconnect on drug laws. We actually had to pass a constitutional amendment to ban alcohol use and consumption. Where is the constitutional amendment dealing with all of the drugs that are considered illegal or prescription only?

      • Absolutely- because possessing and utilizing alcohol is a dangerous activity that harms society and therefore must be banned. And by making it illegal it ceased to be a harm to society. Easy peasy.

        So it follows that firearm possession and use is dangerous and harmful to society, and therefore must be made illegal- so it will cease to be a problem, too.

        That’s the issue with marijuana possession and use, right… the crime is that it exists, huh? Like firearms and alcohol, it matters not if 99.9% of individuals possessing and utilizing the product do so judiciously, rationally, and harmlessly- the fraction of a percentage of people who choose to behave negligently are what we must use to decide what freedoms are “allowed” for citizens.

        After all- we only want what’s best for you…

    • “One might argue that there is no difference between possessing and utilizing a firearm in a safe, responsible, and legitimate way and possessing and utilizing marijuana in a safe, responsible, and legitimate way.”

      sure. using a firearm does not degrade the ability to use it responsibly. using pot does.

      • ant7, out of politeness and regard for your intelligence, I will simply suggest you might consider giving a little more reflection on your conclusion. I am confident you will be able to see the failure in the logic of your pronouncement after some cogitation.

        Take your time.

        • “Take your time”

          been reflecting on it for decades. drugs deform the mind and degrade the ability to act responsibly – that is the whole point of using them. those under the influence of drugs are not capable of acting as an adult citizen, and those that repeatedly indulge them demonstrate a propensity for irresponsibility – a propensity that must be recognized and responded to.

        • For some, decades of reflection is not enough time to grasp the surety of rationality, integrity, personal responsibility, and liberty. I sincerely hope you are able to get there eventually.

          Some, unfortunately, cannot (or will not) ever perceive enlightenment. The song remains the same.

        • “perceive enlightenment”

          timothy leary went out of style some time ago.

          “For some, decades of reflection is not enough time to grasp the surety of rationality, integrity, personal responsibility, and liberty”

          we can allow the readers to decide.

        • Timothy Leary’s dead
          No, no, no, no, he’s outside, looking in.

          TTAG readers mostly have keen perceptions… mostly.

  4. Back to this discussion on the Devil’s Lettuce. As I’ve stated before:

    CBD strains, IMHO, have a legitimate purpose and are fine. Decriminalize CBD at the federal level, at the very minimum recognizing a medical card or physician’s approval as a “permission slip” for possession and use. Should have no impact whatsoever on gun rights.

    THC strains are more for recreational use. Potheads and the like. I’ve personally watched more than one person in my close circle (family, friends) start on THC for fun and become victim to it as a true “gateway drug” that led to harder drugs, loss of job/family/home, and eventually death. A few instances, actually. It’s no joke.

    I myself have never partaken of the stuff, so TEHO.

    • And I’ve seen friends and family killed by cigarettes and alcohol. They didn’t even need to “graduate” to harder stuff to kill themselves.

      Conversely, I know a fair number of long-term pot users, and enough of them are productive, functioning members of society (not to mention, non-violent) for me to believe the ratio would have been no different without marijuana in the mix.

      Probably addictive personalities, all, but our addictions vary, no?

    • Pot has always had a destructive addiction problem And the promoters of legalization are terrified to talk about that. And usually they will say weed is never dangerous. And that is my problem with the pot heads. They are in general dishonest people. They are socialist progressive in their political orientation.

      All drugs are dangerous when you use the excessively. And it’s the pot heads who promote the excessive use of marijuana.

      • That’s a very broad brush you are using, and 100% wrong. Either you don’t know pot smokers, or you only know ones that have serious problems. Which would be exactly the same as only knowing people who drink that are alcoholics.

        • I don’t know of any legalization advocate who says at the same time, that you should not smoke marijuana. In fact they say there’s nothing wrong with smoking marijuana. Many say that marijuana smoking is much safer than tobacco smoking. That is false.

          Also the legalization crowd is against the law abiding shooting drug users dead when they rob, rape, Steal, break into and or, vandalize private property. Or Shoot them when they make a general nuisance of themselves.

          This is why I believe the legalization crowd does not believe in freedom and liberty. Because personal responsibility and accountability go together with them. And the legalization crowd doesn’t believe in being held responsible or accountable when they’re intoxicated. They tried to pass a law in California that would prevent employers from firing employees, who showed up for work intoxicated. It failed to pass. But that doesn’t mean the legalization crowd has stopped trying to get that law passed.

          As far as my history goes, my father started smoking marijuana with me when I was 11 years old. I grew up around pot heads. I have found them to be usually unreliable. Most of them are socialist progressive in their political orientation. Very few of them really support Liberty.

          Adam Carolla, an atheist, has some very interesting things to say about his hippie pothead mother. He supports legalization as I do. But he also knows that pot smokers tend to be unreliable.

          Legalizing drugs does not reduce crime. And it does not solve the general social problems we have in society. Only turning to god will we begin to solve the many social problems we have in the 21st century. Or at least become more like Adam Carolla.

        • I advocate for legalization of ALL drugs, not because I would ever use any of them, but because I object to expenditure of my tax money in the misguided and totally ineffective attempt to save people from themselves. Once you begin looking objectively at that problem, it is a small step to recognize the MASSIVE surrender of all manner of human rights in the pursuit of this unachievable goal, without ever a single hint of progress. The only thing which our 50-year “war on drugs” has accomplished is a massive increase in the size and cost of government, and resulting loss of freedom for every one of us. Remember, in your consideration, that this has been going on increasingly since the 1960s, yet you can buy any drug you want, on any streetcorner, in any town or city in America. I am not suggesting we surrender the war on drugs, I am asserting we decisively *LOST* the war on drugs decades ago, why are we still imprisoning people in order to keep them alive, why are we still spending hundreds of billions of dollars we could really use elsewhere, keeping dopers fed and housed, while most, apparently, can STILL purchase any drug they want while in the damn PRISON!!!

  5. Though I almost never drink and see myself as very unlikely to smoke weed, I see marijuana laws as nearly as bad as most gun laws. It isn’t what an item is, it is what you do with it that matters.

    • “It isn’t what an item is, it is what you do with it that matters”

      for a user, what the item is is the whole point of it.

  6. Freedom of choice.
    Background checks should require a urine test 1 hour before you purchase your gunm.
    The right to bear arms does have limitations.

    • Most People who are murdered are either under the influence of alcohol or their killer is under the influence of alcohol. Perhaps we should disqualify beer drinkers from owning guns, especially those that drink daily, as clearly they are addicted to a controlled substance. “If it just saves, one life”, “Do it for the children”, etc., etc.

      Not buying what you’re selling. Those engaged in legal behavior should not be stripped of their rights without a court trial.

      Wait until a natural disaster strikes the North East and some governor issues a state wide red flag order against all citizens in the disaster area, stripping them of their 2nd Amendment Rights, without due process of law.

      • “Perhaps we should disqualify beer drinkers from owning guns”

        ‘t’s what I would do. the argument against that is that that battle was lost thousands of years ago, and I agree. the argument for including pot in that reasoning is that since alcohol is now moot, therefore everything else should be moot too.

    • “The right to bear arms does have limitations”

      agreed – participation in any society involves limitations and compromises. but most (internet) rightists are loner isolates who reject the notion of any limitations on their behavior and actions and who thus reject the very notion of society and government itself.

    • If you claim that smoking weed, or drinking, or whatever will cause people to do illegal things, I can agree completely when you propose punishment for doing illegal things, but that agreement screeches to a halt when that (especially unproven) claim manifests in a demand to make that smoking, drinking, or whatever illegal and punishable in its own right, particularly when it can easily be shown that 99% of potheads offend no one, mind their own business and leave everybody else alone.

  7. The Supreme Court along with Justice Thomas ruled that a person who is growing marijuana in their closet, at home for their own personal use, is subject to Federal Law. The reasoning was that by growing their own marijuana and not buying it from others on the street, they were negatively impacting Inter-State Commerce by their behavior and therefore, subject to federal regulation under the commerce clause. This opinion is absurd and allows the federal government to intrude into every aspect of our life, whether we engage in inter-state commerce or we don’t.

    For the most part, Thomas is one of the “Good Ones” in a stinky bunch of Bananas. I can do without have to beg for my rights from lawyers in black dresses. The system needs to be reformed and the courts are one of the major areas that need reform.

    • This kind of “logic” began in the 1930s with a case involving a farmer. To prop up prices by limiting supply, there was a federal limit on the total amount of wheat that could be grown. A farmer grew some wheat on his property to feed his cows. He never sold any. Nevertheless, he was found, by the Supreme Court, to have violated the limitation because growing his own meant that he didn’t have to buy from the approved pool. (See DaveL’s post below.)

  8. Like duuuude maaaaan…I don’t want your incompetent stoned behind anywhere around me. You wanna get high? Get High On Life. Before we go along with rolling joints to benefit the 2A we need to focus on rolling Gun Control off a cliff.

  9. Even the 4473 is misleading- you’re not an unlawful user if it’s lawful where you reside. The warning wouldn’t even remotely hold up in court if this were any other right you were trying to exercise.

  10. The issue goes way beyond what’s explained here. Thomas’ dissent strikes to the heart of Wickard v. Filburn, which held that the federal government could regulate how much wheat a person could grow on his own property for his own use, under the theory that it affected interstate commerce. Filburn was and remains an astounding expansion of federal powers, making almost every conceivable human activity under the purview of what was originally intended to be a government with strictly circumscribed powers.

    If you strike down Filburn and the precedent that flows from it, it would drastically shrink the scope of federal law across the board. After all, there’s no rational explanation, for instance, as to how cutting the stock off your rifle constitutes “interstate commerce”, except under the contrived logic of Wickard v Filburn that Thomas rejects. This is not a dissent about marijuana, it’s a dissent about federalism.

    • “This is not a dissent about marijuana, it’s a dissent about federalism”

      absolutely right.

      • That’s the only reason to vote for marijuana legalization at the state level: force the issue of federalism.

        • The pot heads will never support federalism. They would never support 50 different ways in dealing with marijuana, in the individual states. They want a large federal response.

        • I don’t believe potheads care at all, they will always be able to buy pot. Who cares is the dealers’ networks, looking to become oligarchs.

  11. Guns and booze (or drugs) don’t mix. The BATF proved that at Waco where three out of the four deceased agents were shot with projectiles consistent with the rifles employed by the BATF sniper team that somehow managed to fire three dozen rounds without hitting any of the Branch Davidians.

    • I’m thinking that info is bad. The four agents killed died in the initial assault, before the snipers were even present. The snipers (just as at Ruby Ridge) were FBI agents, not BATF, arrived when the FBI replaced the bumbling ATF after they had gotten 4 of their people killed, most likely by others of their people. After which the ATF was not present to be killed.

    • “If you’ve ever been to a gun range- you have already”

      so, for some, being on a gun range with stoned/drunk/high people is normal. anyone else agree with that?

      • I sure do. Depending, I suppose, on what you are calling a “range”, since I have been shooting in the vicinity of other people I did not know, as early as 50 years ago, if they minded their own business and did not scare me how would I know whether they were stoned or not? And why would I care? Are we suggesting each applicant for an hour on the range should be blood tested and background checked? It’s getting stupid, here!

    • How would you know ant??? I have an aged friend who’s 66… Im certain he still gets high. Hunts and belongs to the ISRA range near Kankakee,Il. I haven’t smoked pot in 40 yeast but I trust my friend. I never graduated to hard drugs. He didn’t either…

    • Would you share the road with someone who was stoned/drunk/high?
      No. I am sure there are laws about impaired people at shooting areas, just like impaired people driving/boating.

      • Which are *ALL* unenforceable until there is an incident, after which the incident cannot be prevented.

  12. If you’ve ever been to a gun range- you have already.

    ant7- the only person you’ll ever be able to control is yourself- the sooner you accept this wisdom, the sooner you’ll feel more… balanced.

    • “the sooner you’ll feel more… balanced”

      if you’re ever outside of a society that doesn’t deal with the people who don’t control themselves you’ll find yourself considerably unbalanced.

    • “Colorado traffic deaths since legalization have increased 24 percent overall … while deaths in which drivers tested positive for marijuana increased 135 percent”

  13. Freedom is messy. Not allowing weed, tobacco or alcohol is no more tyrannical than not allowing guns.

    • the “freedom” advocated by many (internet) rightists is not messy, it is corrosive and self-defeating. THEY would never tolerate anyone around them acting with the freedom they advocate for themselves.

  14. “But his opinion puts him to the left of President Biden on weed use.“

    Not really. Conservatism is in favor of less government control and deregulation. People, both liberals and conservatives, just don’t really understand what their own side truly represents anymore, or where it originated.

    • “Conservatism is in favor of less government control and deregulation” …

      … because it presumes self-government. drugs degrade self-government, thus conservatives oppose them.

      • … because it presumes self-government. drugs degrade self-government, thus *I* oppose them.

        There, FIFY. You do NOT speak for all conservatives, nor for our beliefs and ideals. You speak for yourself alone – never forget that.

      • If you do not achieve proper self governance, you should suffer for that, not I. Therefore, I do not oppose drugs, only people who attempt to force me to pay for their mistakes due to lack of self governance.

  15. I think some of the people that frequent this blog fail to comprehend how many people around America consume the green (sometimes the purple or the blue; the weed the kids have these days is as weird as it it powerful). Many of these same people own and/or use guns.

    I have tried the smelly stuff (I’m an American), but I currently do not use it as it never really agreed w/ me. But I support the right of those who do realizing that some will do so irresponsibly. Just like many leftists fail to realize how prevalent weapons are in our modern society, many on the right fail to realize how wide spread drug use is. I can think of at least three I have had in my system today: caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol. How many here have had at least one those three in the last month? Week? Drugs are everywhere. Just like weapons, individuals and societies have to learn to manage them.

  16. Freedom is messy. And pot heads don’t support freedom. That is why they supported prop 47 in California. They even tried to pass a law that would prevent an employer from firing a worker who was intoxicated on weed.

    The legalization crowd supported prop 47, a direct attack on private property rights. So now drug addicts can seal up to $999.00, and still be only charged with a misdemeanor. The Libertarians engineered a way for the drug user to pay for his drug use. They made it much easier to steal in order to get the money to pay for their drugs.

    Pot heads are socialist progressive in their political orientation. They supported raising taxes and making more and more state government regulations. And they support racist gun control. They are the modern day locust plague. They left California and destroyed Colorado. They don’t want to be held accountable for any crime they commit while under the influence.

    The above map shows the evidence. The states with legalized weed laws are also the same states with growing restrictive gun laws. Even Arizona, has become a purple state. Just like Colorado. And you just lost the preemption laws in Colorado. Your proud g@y governor, married with children, the gun grabber, just signed the law obliterating you civil rights.

    But he does support your right to get stoned. Pot heads will always trade away gun rights for the ability to get stoned without the fear of being arrested.

  17. If a state-issued medical marijuana card shows up in a federal NICS check, it’s only because the state forwarded its list to the FBI.

    Have any state-level 2A or marijuana advocacy groups ever worked to get their state’s government to withhold those data from the feds?

    • That is a great question. But I doubt they are involved in “working” to change things for the better.

      “Why It’s OK Not To Vote – Katherine Mangu-Ward” video 1 hour long

  18. Thomas is not conservative, he’s Constitutionalist. He’s pro- Bill of Rights including the 2nd AS WRITTEN and pro- Liberty. Constitutionalist is what every judge in the nation SHOULD be but sadly the judiciary is filled with activists with personal agendas that undermine the Constitution.

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