When a particular political party has an incumbent in office and running for reelection, it is relatively uncommon for a fellow member of that party to run in the primary election against a member of their own party who already holds the seat. Representative Jim Banks, who represents Indiana’s 3rd Congressional District, is not so lucky. Dr. Chris Magiera, a gastroenterologist, will appear alongside Banks when Republican voters cast their ballot during the 2020 primary election.

Constituents in Banks’ district know all too well his stance on cannabis. “I believe that each State has the ability to enact its own laws, not outlined or prohibited by the federal government, as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution,” he says in his form letter response to constituents. “However, I do not believe in the legalization of narcotics. Until Congress passes legislation removing marijuana and cannabinoids from the list of Schedule I controlled substances, I will continue to support enforcing the nation’s drug laws and prosecuting those who break them.”

While Banks would apparently love to see a crackdown against cannabis users, including in states that have opted to pass their own legalization laws, he is also uncharacteristically a cosponsor of the Safe and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act of 2019 (H.R. 1595), a bill that would shield banks from prosecution should they offer financial services to cannabis businesses operating within state law. Banks also voted against the Blumenauer/McClintock amendment, a budget amendment that would prevent the Department of Justice from using funds to prosecute those acting in compliance with state recreational cannabis laws.

Dr. Magiera holds, in some respects, a similar personal attitude towards cannabis use. In a conversation that we had with him on the topic, he expressed reservations that he would be willing to support any sort of legal cannabis if he were sitting in the Indiana Statehouse, but at the same time believes that the federal government does not have the constitutional authority to regulate or prohibit cannabis outside of a few very limited legal jurisdictions including medical care for veterans and rules regarding international trade. While Magiera is reticent to do anything that might increase cannabis use, which he believes might have unknown long term risks, he was able to meet us at some common ground in the belief that cannabis is over-criminalized, and that the punishment is unduly severe, especially when compared to a different substance that he knows to cause harm: alcohol.

While to cannabis legalization supporters both candidates might appear similar, where Banks and Magiera differ seems to be in their interpretation of the constitutional appropriateness of federal cannabis prohibition. While Banks makes a reference to states rights’, he goes on to uphold the Controlled Substances Act and affirms his support for the enforcement of the Act. Magiera, on the other hand, does not believe the Controlled Substances Act is valid and writes in his statement on cannabis that, “It was well established in the writings of the Founders that such unconstitutional acts were to be considered simple null and void.”

On August 8th, Magiera released his formal campaign stance on cannabis regulation at the federal level, which you can read below:

Position of Christopher Magiera, M.D. with respect to intoxicant containing Cannabis sativa and related plants, and the marijuana or other raw or refined byproducts derived from them:

Upholding the Constitution is always the best solution. If elected to the United States House of Representatives in the 2020 election, I “shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution;” This statement is from Article VI, Section 3 of that document.

No Federal law can be accepted as the supreme law of the land, unless it derives its justification from the enumerated powers of Congress, most notably as specified in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution. Also, as clearly stated in Article 1, Section 1: “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.” This sentence is absolute. Neither the Executive nor the Judicial branches are capable of legislative action. This prohibition also carries over to the Departments of the Executive branch.

Article 1, Section 8, Clause 1: “The Congress shall have Power to lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;”

Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3: “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;”

Amendment X: “ The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Considering the above Constitutional clauses, it would fall under the enumerated powers of the Congress to regulate the importation and exportation of a plant, crop, commodity such as Cannabis and its derived products.

Also, it would follow under the enumerated powers of Congress to establish uniform Duties, Imposts and Excises on the Cannabis plant and its byproducts.

The Constitution provides NO justification for the Congress to regulate domestic agriculture, medications, or medical care. There is NO constitutional justification for a Department of Agriculture, a domestic DEA, FDA, HHS and tens if not hundreds of other Executive branch Departments, Agencies, Commissions, Boards and Bureaus. Powers not specifically enumerated to the Federal government by the Constitution devolve to the States or to the people. It was well established in the writings of the Founders that such unconstitutional acts were to be considered simply null and void. However, Article 1, Section 8, Clauses 12,13,14 DO specify military related items: “(12) To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years; (13) To provide and maintain a Navy; (14) To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;” Federal government involvement in Veteran’s affairs would be justified by these clauses. Assuming that is the case, and, if it were to be the action of Congress to specify regulation of medications for veterans and active duty military personnel, and, if current FDA/DEA/CSA drug schedules were to be adopted in such legislation, and, if such Acts were to be signed into law by the President, then I would support moving marijuana, marijuana extract and the still specified Schedule 1 THC compounds from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2. This move would be solely for the purpose of promoting research into the efficacy of the various chemical constituents found in the Cannabis species. However, as a practitioner of modern medicine and an advocate of the scientific method, I do not support the consumption of raw cannabis as a medicine any more than I would advocate the chewing of digitalis leaves instead of standardized and refined digoxin, or the injection of Gila monster venom rather than the derived diabetic control products Byetta, Victoza or Bydureon. Our Veterans deserve the best medical services available, and this care should be the result of rigorous research and development and controlled clinical trials. If, after much research, it were to be concluded that a standardized raw botanical preparation of Cannabis were to be more effective as a treatment for specified medical conditions than any refined or synthetic chemical compound or mixture of compounds, then I could support the use of such a raw botanical preparation to be used as a Scheduled item for medical treatment in the military and veteran situation. Regarding the rules for military conduct and justice, intoxication, impairment, or addiction from Cannabis products should be treated in the same manner as any other intoxication, impairment or addiction.

Moving back to the general population, does this mean that the several States cannot cooperate? No, it does not. Look to Article 1, Section 10, Clause 3: “No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.” There exist today interstate compacts, such as the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, to facilitate commerce and regulation, so that each State does not have to “reinvent the wheel,” and States with common goals can choose to cooperate for their collective benefit.

It is within the above context that I place the situation of Cannabis and its byproducts, raw, refined or synthetic.

If elected to the United States House of Representatives, my primary duty will always be to uphold the Constitution. I do not hold positions simply because they are easy, convenient or popular.

Whether their slightly nuanced stances on cannabis will differentiate either candidate in the eyes of Republican primary voters in Indiana’s 3rd Congressional District will remain unknown until the votes are tallied.

Currently, no Democrats have filed to run in the Democratic primary for this district, and no Libertarians have publicly expressed intent to seek the Party’s nomination by convention.