High court takes medical marijuana case

By ShadyMilkman · Jul 2, 2004 · ·
  1. ShadyMilkman
    WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court said Monday it will consider whether sick people who smoke pot on a doctor's orders are subject to a federal ban on marijuana.

    The court agreed to hear the Bush administration's appeal of a case it lost last year involving two California women who say marijuana is the only drug that helps alleviate their chronic pain and other medical problems.

    The high court will hear the case sometime next winter. It was among eight new cases the court added to its calendar for the coming term. The current term is expected to end this week.

    The marijuana case came to the Supreme Court after the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in December that a federal law outlawing marijuana does not apply to California patients whose doctors have prescribed the drug.

    In its 2-1 decision, the appeals court said prosecuting medical marijuana users under the federal Controlled Substances Act is unconstitutional if the marijuana is not sold, transported across state lines or used for non-medicinal purposes.

    Judge Harry Pregerson wrote for the appeals court majority that smoking pot on the advice of a doctor is "different in kind from drug trafficking." The court added that "this limited use is clearly distinct from the broader illicit drug market."

    In its appeal to the justices, the government argued that state laws making exceptions for "medical marijuana" are trumped by federal drug laws.

    Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act to control "all manufacturing, possession and distribution of any" drug it lists, Bush administration Supreme Court lawyer Theodore Olson wrote.

    "That goal cannot be achieved if the intrastate manufacturing, possession and distribution of a drug may occur without any federal regulation."

    California's 1996 medical marijuana law allows people to grow, smoke or obtain marijuana for medical needs with a doctor's recommendation. Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington state have laws similar to California. Thirty-five states have passed legislation recognizing marijuana's medicinal value.

    In states with medical marijuana laws, doctors can give written or oral recommendations on marijuana to patients with cancer, HIV and other serious illnesses.

    The case concerned two seriously ill California women, Angel Raich and Diane Monson. The two had sued Attorney General John Ashcroft, asking for a court order letting them smoke, grow or obtain marijuana without fear of federal prosecution.

    Raich, a 38-year-old Oakland woman suffering from ailments including scoliosis, a brain tumor, chronic nausea, fatigue and pain, smokes marijuana every few hours. She said she was partly paralyzed until she started smoking pot.

    In 2001, the Supreme Court ruled that members-only clubs that had formed to distribute medical marijuana could not claim their activity was protected by "medical necessity," even if patients have a doctor's recommendation to use the drug.

    Last fall, however, the high court refused to hear a separate Bush administration request to consider whether the federal government can punish doctors for recommending the drug to sick patients.

    The case is Ashcroft v. Raich, 03-1454.

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  1. ShadyMilkman
    Supreme Court rejects White House appeal over medical marijuana

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Supreme Court justices on Tuesday rejected the Bush administration's request to consider whether the federal government can punish doctors for recommending or even discussing the use of marijuana for their patients.

    The decision by the High Court cleared the way for state laws allowing ill patients to smoke marijuana if a doctor recommends it.

    The dispute pits free speech rights against efforts to stamp out use of the popular, but illegal recreational drug. Some in the medical and legal community argue marijuana has true medical value to ease pain and stimulate appetite.

    Marijuana is recognized as a controlled substance by the federal government and its use for recreational purposes is banned in most jurisdictions. The federal Office of National Drug Control Policy labels marijuana, along with other addictive drugs, as having "a high potential for abuse," lacking "accepted safety for use," even "under medical supervision."

    Nine states have laws legalizing marijuana for people with physician recommendations or prescriptions: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. And 35 states have passed legislation recognizing marijuana's medicinal value.

    California in particular has been at the legal forefront on the issue. A 1996 voter referendum, the Compassionate Use Act, allowed marijuana use by those who receive "the written or oral recommendation or approval of a physician."

    Federal law bans marijuana distribution and use under any circumstances.

    Tuesday's decision means state laws on the use of medical marijuana will stay in place, at least for the time being, and may encourage other states to pass similar referendums.

    Federal health officials had told doctors who recommend or prescribe the substance could risk losing their medical license.

    A federal appeals court ruled against the government, saying in its ruling, "physicians must be able to speak frankly and openly to patients." The Justice Department then appealed to the Supreme Court.

    In a legal brief to the justices, Solicitor General Theodore Olson said, "The government's efforts ... to warn physicians against conduct that is substantially likely to facilitate and promote the acquisition and use of an unsafe controlled substance having a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use under federal law do not abridge any First Amendment rights."

    Marijuana supporters argue against federal regulation

    But supporters of medical marijuana argue sick people should have a range of options available to them. "Patients deserve access to accurate information about medicinal value in treating pain, nausea, wasting ... and other symptoms of life-threatening diseases," said Graham Boyd of the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing a group of 15 patients and doctors in the case.

    There is also a states' rights issue at play. Supporters of the medical marijuana laws argue Washington has no business trying to block the will of voters.

    "It has always been, and should continue to be, the state's role to police the medical profession while balancing the First Amendment rights of doctors and patients," said Daniel Abrahamson of the Drug Policy Alliance. "The federal government's intrusion into this system is unwarranted."

    Keith Vines, a prosecutor in San Francisco who used marijuana to combat HIV-related illnesses, was among those who challenged a federal policy put in place during the Clinton administration. That policy requires the revocation of federal prescription licenses of doctors who recommend marijuana.

    "If the government is zipping them up, and we're not being told about options, that's negligence," Vines said in a report from The Associated Press.

    A continuing debate is whether prescribed marijuana actually benefits patients medically.

    "There is a difference between feeling better and actually getting better," said Dr. Andrea Barthwell, deputy director at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. "There is no scientific evidence that qualifies smoked marijuana to be called medicine. Further, there is no support in the medical literature that marijuana, or indeed any medicine, should be smoked as the preferred form of administration. The harms to health are simply too great."

    The case is Walters v. Conant, case no. 03-0040.
  2. manda
    Seems likeit's not too hard to get a permit these days.. or, let's put it this way, a lot of lops claim to have a permit.

    They should just legalize it,it'scool sick people get to use it, but they sell it too sometimes, and if they can sell it, I should be able to do it too, I feel.
  3. manda
    Weed can turn a sharp, burning pain into a dull ache. My stomach hurt so bad I could barely get out of bed the other morning, after I puffed I made it to the couch.

    But everyone knows, there are strong,narcotic drugs designed just for cancer pain, likediluadid. So themsaying "Woe was me, weed is the only thing that will work for my pain" sounds a bit cheeky to me, when there are designer drugs on the market for every type of pain.

    If this is truly the only thing that alleviates their pain, I hope they win. If not, good try.
  4. ShadyMilkman
    Well you have a lot people with pains that can't be cured by things like pills. You have to factor in the type of pain, location, and the capability of a patient to take a pill. Some people are already on so many pills that a painkiller would seriously interfere with the others and lead to possible death.
  5. ShadyMilkman
    I had a professor who knew someone in the government whos son was diagnosed with cancer. Even with all the money his father had, being that he was a government worker, the doctor couldn't presrcribe marijuana. However, he did tell his father that even though he couldn't prescribe it or professionally recommend it, it would be helpful. The father had to buy weed on the streets and it really helped his son out a lot.
  6. manda
    My familyis so straight it's trippy, but if they weren't I would never have one of my own hitting the streets for something I had. That's gay.
  7. manda
    I guess what I meant is there are plenty of people who face this shit without it fine, what makes them so special?
  8. ShadyMilkman
    Anything that can ease the pain of a suffering human should be used for those purposes.
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