Today's Papers

Doobie or Not Doobie?

Everybody leads with the Supreme Court’s ruling yesterday that enhanced the federal government’s ability to act against medical marijuana clubs, which is also the top story in the Wall Street Journal front-page worldwide news box.

Most of the big print over the leads suggests that the court’s ruling means medical marijuana clubs are out of business. ( USA Today: “COURT BARS MEDICAL MARIJUANA”, Los Angeles Times: TOP COURT SAYS NO TO MEDICAL MARIJUANA USE.”) But as the stories explain to varying degrees, the situation is rather more nuanced. The justices ruled 8-0 that the U.S. government has the ability to target distributors of marijuana to those who use it on certified medical grounds and 5-3 that it could also go after people for medical marijuana possession. (And no, Justice Stephen Breyer didn’t oversleep–his brother is a federal judge involved in the case, so he recused himself.) But as the papers note, neither opinion overturns state medical marijuana initiatives or addresses any other question of state law. That’s why the New York Times says the court dealt a “setback, but not a definitive blow” to the medical marijuana movement.

The LAT says flat-out that the legacy of the decision is “confusion and litigation.” And the coverage itself gives that prediction immediate credibility. The NYT says one remaining question is whether or not state governments could now legally go into the medical marijuana distribution business, while the Washington Post opines that the ruling “is likely to doom large, public distribution centers–confining the use of ‘medical marijuana’ to private, small-scale settings outside the usual scope of federal enforcement efforts.” The LAT says another consequence is that now a Los Angeles police officer could not arrest a medical marijuana user or distributor (because the California referendum specifically forbids this), but a federal officer could. The paper adds that what’s “most striking” about the decision is that it never discusses states’ rights, not only the heart of the issue, but ordinarily something that the court’s conservative majority champions.

The NYT, WP, and LAT each front fresh census data showing that the traditional “married-with-children” household is becoming increasingly rare. The NYT headline says that for the first time, families fitting the profile have dropped below 25 percent of total U.S. households. The Times goes high emphasizing these explanations: more men and women delaying children, more couples living longer after their children leave home, and single-parent families growing at a faster rate than married couples. The WP goes high with a mention of the rise of live-in partners, including gay couples. The LAT says the increasing numbers of live-ins “reflects deepening divorce trauma” and that “formalized unions have lost much of their functional and economic necessity in the last three decades.” The NYT goes highest with the poverty angle: that the much-faster-increasing families with children headed by women are typically poorer than traditional nuclear families.

The LAT fronts word, based on unidentified government sources, that a second batch of previously undisclosed FBI McVeigh documents turned up last week. The story has nothing about the contents of these new documents but does elaborate a bit about last week’s bombshell batch: They include not just reports about a never-further-identified suspect, John Doe No. 2, but also some about another mystery man who gave his name as Robert Jacques to a real estate broker in the course of inquiring about the possibility of buying secluded property including caves. According to the report, the broker thought the two men with Jacques fit the description of Timothy McVeigh and his convicted co-conspirator, Terry Nichols.

The WSJ finds that in the first quarter of 2001, the largest U.S. corporations posted “one of their worst profit performances in at least ten years.” The paper attributes the downer to rising labor and fuel costs compounded by falling sales.

The NYT goes inside with new data showing that the biggest cuts under the Republican-led tax bill passed by the House will go to the “extraordinarily wealthy,” rather than to the “merely wealthy and the affluent.” Under the House plan, the 400 richest Americans would save more than a million bucks apiece. Under the current Senate proposal, they would have to make do with individual cuts of $622,900.

The NYT reports that a widely discussed 1997 academic study finding that female chimpanzees in the Ivory Coast frequently mated with males outside their community has now been completely contradicted. The earlier study indicated that male chimps’ striving for alpha status seemed a waste because the females would dally with whomever at their peak moment of fertility. The new study reinstates the sex value of being an alpha or near-alpha male, although the technique of befriending females instead of batting them around was also found to have some utility. This “debacle” (the NYT’s words) seems to have been rooted in the inaccuracy of the non-invasive DNA-collection methods relied upon by the original researchers.

And next year, we’ll review it. The NYT runs this correction: “A classical music listing in Arts & Leisure on Sunday for a concert tonight by the New York Pops was published in error. The concert took place at Carnegie Hall a year ago.”