In yet another example of the robust state of America’s democracy, Republicans have vowed to block any nominee to the Supreme Court until after the election, in the hopes that the appointee is picked by a Republican instead of President Obama.
In a move likely designed to appease Republicans and/or expose their obstructionism, Obama has chosen appeals court judge Merrick Garland, a political centrist who’s received praise from members of both parties. So chances are that he isn’t a raging progressive on drug policy.
There’s not a whole lot to go on in his record, but in 2012 Garland helped block efforts to reclassify marijuana from a Schedule 1 substance. During the hearing, an advocate argued that the Drug Enforcement Administration failed to acknowledge the health benefits of marijuana—that they were ignoring recent medical literature, since that was the only way to still believe that marijuana is as dangerous as other Schedule 1 drugs, like heroin and PCP.
“Don’t we have to defer to their judgment on what the medical studies show?” asked Garland, according to The Los Angeles Times. “We’re not scientists. They are.”
Unwarranted respect for the DEA’s grasp on science does not bode well. However, a group of marijuana businessmen wrote a letter pointing out that the fact the judge even brought up science demonstrates some commitment to evidence-based policy.
Also, Vox has a good run-down comparing Garland’s criminal justice record to Judge Antonin Scalia’s. The verdict: moderate-to-conservative, far more likely to side with the government than defendants, although Merrick fortunately seems to have less enthusiasm for executing people than Scalia.