AP Gov SAQ Practice Prompt Answers & Feedback

3 min readdecember 31, 2020


SAQ practice is one of the best ways to prepare for the AP exam! Review student writing practice samples and corresponding feedback from Nicole Johnston.

The SAQ Practice Prompt

In 1996, California legalized medical marijuana. However, that state law conflicted with the federal Controlled Substances Act, which made the possession of marijuana illegal. When federal agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency confiscated the drug from a medical marijuana user’s home, a group of people prescribed medical marijuana sued the federal government. They argued that the Controlled Substances Act exceeded the government’s authority since the use of medical marijuana was within the state of California, not between states. The case reached the Supreme Court in 2004 in Gonzales v. Raich. The Court ruled 6:3 that the government did have authority to prohibit medical marijuana possession and use, even though it was legal in California. It reasoned that since marijuana sales are part of a national market, the federal government can control marijuana possession.
  1. Identify the constitutional clause that is common to both Gonzales v. Raich and US v. Lopez.
  2. Based on the constitutional clause identified in Part A, explain why the facts of Gonzales v. Raich led to a different holding than the holding in US v. Lopez.
  3. Describe an action that California users of medical marijuana might take to limit the impact of the ruling in Gonzales v. Raich.

Writing Samples and Feedback

Short Answer Question Practice Submission 1

  1. The constitutional clause that is shared is the commerce clause because Gonzales v. Raich and US v. Lopez challenged laws relating to purchasing goods within and out of state lines.
  2. In Gonzales v. Raich the decision was that the government could, indeed, control where marijuana is legal and can be sold. While in US v. Lopez it was decided that the gun-free school act was invalid. US v. Lopez came to that decision because if a gun was in a school zone and committed a crime it was unlikely that the person who committed the crime would go to another state, therefore making guns in school zones not a problem of interstate commerce. Gonzales v. Raich was different because Marijuana could be taken outside of California which means it would go into 49 other states that does not have legal medical marijuana. Marijuana is a national market and therefore was apart of interstate commerce, making it so the national government could restrict. It is also more likely from someone to bring marijuana they got legally into a state where it is illegal, which was in US v. Lopez the justification for making the act they did.
  3. People from outside of California could go to California and get marijuana to use. They could also start using marijuana illegally. Since it was ruled that the federal government could restrict, they hadn’t yet, they could continue their practices of medical marijuana. If those practices were threaten the Californians could move to somewhere else or could figure out how to work with the new restrictions.

Teacher SAQ feedback:

"Great answers…part 3 is a little more tricky. In the Gonzales case, the defendant was growing his own marijuana - for medical purposes. California medical marijuana users could limit the impact of the ruling by not growing their own marijuana and using state dispensaries."

Short Answer Question Practice Submission 2

  1. The constitutional clause that is common to both cases is the commerce clause, which says that the government can regulate interstate commerce.
  2. US v Lopez was a case in which a law was passed that said no guns in a school zone, based on the commerce clause. Lopez was a student who got caught with a gun in a school zone and was held accountable. He appealed to the Supreme Court saying that the law was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court ruled in his favor. The difference between the two cases is that in Lopez, commerce really does not have anything to do with guns in a school zone, while regulating marijuana does.
  3. These medical marijuana uses can protest and appeal to their representatives, who can pass a law that would give more freedom to medical marijuana users.

Teacher SAQ feedback:

"For Part 2, make sure to expand on your thought about why guns do not constitute commerce and marijuana does."

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