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Health Law May Hinge On Wheat, Pot And Broccoli

Publication Date: 
March 22, 2012
Josh Gerstein

Professor Pamela S. Karlan is mentioned in the following article by Politico's Josh Gerstein on the fine details that the health care decision may depend on.

The survival of President Barack Obama’s signature health care law may come down to wheat, pot, guns — and a nagging question about broccoli.

Strange as it may seem, those diverse topics are apt to surface repeatedly during next week’s arguments at the Supreme Court over the health law’s constitutionality.


“It’s wheat, dope, sex fiends and gun-toting teenagers,” quipped Stanford law Professor Pam Karlan.


Kagan, who’s considered a safe vote to uphold the health law, added that the federal government can’t use its Commerce Clause powers to regulate non-economic activity.

She didn’t mention that forcing people to eat vegetables could violate other rights guaranteed by the Constitution, like the right to privacy.

But that’s the key distinction in the broccoli wars, according to Karlan, who considers the health care law constitutional.

“Making somebody buy something is a regulation of commerce,” she said. “The government could force you to buy the stuff, but they can’t make you eat it. … The choice is still protected.”