By Alfa · Jul 5, 2004 · ·
  1. Alfa

    Justice Department Appealed Victory For Two Ailing Women

    The Supreme Court agreed Monday to consider whether people who smoke
    marijuana under a doctor's direction are exempt from a U.S. law that
    bans the drug.

    Justices will hear the government's appeal of a case won last year by
    two California women who say marijuana is the only way they can find
    relief from their painful medical conditions.

    In the recent past the high court has tended to side with state and
    local concerns in some clashes with the federal government. But in
    2001, the high court decided for the federal government in another
    medicinal marijuana case.

    Eight years years ago, California voters approved a medicinal
    marijuana law that allows patients to smoke marijuana under a doctor's
    orders. Eight other states have enacted similar laws. But federal drug
    enforcement agents have raided pot clubs that sell medicinal marijuana.

    In December, the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
    ruled that prosecuting medicinal marijuana use under the federal
    Controlled Substances Act is unconstitutional in states that allow use
    of the drug for medical purposes, as long as the pot isn't sold,
    transported across state lines or used for non-medicinal purposes.

    The appeals court ruled that medicinal marijuana use is distinct from
    drug trafficking. But in its appeal, the Bush administration wrote
    that the federal government ``controls all manufacturing, possession,
    and distribution'' of any drug listed by the Controlled Substances

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

    While no single case will settle the divisive issue of medicinal
    marijuana, experts said a ruling from the high court could move the
    country a significant step closer to deciding who has the final say --
    states or the federal government -- over use of the drug for pain and

    ``It's important in terms of recognizing some limitations to the
    federal power to flatly prohibit any medical use of marijuana,'' said
    Santa Clara University law Professor Gerald Uelmen, who represented an
    Oakland pot cooperative that was on the losing end of a 2001 Supreme
    Court decision.

    In that case, justices ruled that medicinal pot programs that
    distribute the drug in California and other states could not sidestep
    federal prosecution under a ``medical necessity'' exception.

    Uelmen said the current case before the Supreme Court, Ashcroft vs.
    Raich, is a good case from the perspective of medicinal marijuana

    ``It is such a sympathetic and compelling set of facts,'' he said.
    ``You have two very sick people who get no relief from traditional
    medicine and rely on medical marijuana just to get through the day.''

    Uelmen said Raich could also settle the pending case of a Santa Cruz
    County couple whom he represents. Their cannabis cooperative was
    raided in 2002.

    The two women in Raich are Angel McClary 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 fearing federal

    Raich, a 38-year-old Oakland resident, suffers from numerous ailments,
    including a brain tumor, a seizure disorder and life-threatening
    wasting syndrome, and is allergic to almost all pharmaceutical
    medicines. She uses marijuana every two hours to control her pain,
    keep her moving and help her eat. She says she would die without the

    On Monday, she said she was both excited and nervous at the prospect
    of her case going before the Supreme Court.

    ``The case itself was designed from the beginning with the Supreme
    Court in mind,'' said Raich. ``But at the same time I'm very nervous
    because my life is at stake.''

    Federal officials declined to comment Monday, saying the government's
    brief lays out its arguments in the matter.

    While supporters of medicinal marijuana said they were optimistic
    Monday, experts said they will have a tough job before the Supreme

    ``This looks like another case where they are concerned that the 9th
    Circuit may have gone too far,'' said Rory Little, a Hastings College
    of the Law professor and former Justice Department lawyer. ``But it's
    hard to say. More and more states are interested in legalizing some
    kind of medicinal marijuana, and the political pressure continues to

    Whichever way the court decides, it surely will not resolve the issue.

    ``This is just one shot in a long battle,'' said Little. ``And that
    battle is mostly political, not judicial.''

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  1. Alfa

    Supreme Court to Hear Case on California Law

    Marin's medical marijuana advocates applauded yesterday's U.S. Supreme
    Court decision to hear a case that could determine whether sick people
    who smoke pot on a doctor's orders are subject to a federal ban.

    "The case is so strong. We are delighted the Supreme Court will be
    hearing our evidence," said Lynnette Shaw, director of the
    Fairfax-based Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, which is not
    directly involved in the legal case. "This is going to expose (the
    Bush administration's) rotten underbelly just before the election. I
    couldn't be more pleased."

    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

    The high court will hear the case 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

    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

    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.

    Shaw said she is an old friend of Raich's who, like herself, is from
    the Stockton area. In the late 1990s, supplies were limited and
    Raich's husband at the time did not approve of the use of medical
    marijuana, Shaw said. Shaw used to bring her brownies with the plant
    baked in the dessert and a small amount to smoke.

    For her friend, marijuana has made a dramatic difference, Shaw

    "I know that it has been a blessing in her life and she has blessed
    us," Shaw said, referring to Raich's contribution to the medical

    marijuana movement by pursuing the legal case. "I'm very proud of her."
  2. Alfa

    Seven months ago, a federal appeals court ruled that patients could
    smoke marijuana with their doctor's recommendation in states that
    allow for medical use of the drug. Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court
    said it would reconsider that decision. A ruling is not expected until
    next year, but whatever the decision, the outcome will likely have
    ramifications from coast to coast.

    "This provides the (opening) for patients throughout the country to
    use their medicine free from interference from the federal
    government," Robert Raich said.

    Raich's wife, Angel, is one of two seriously ill Northern California
    women who sued the federal government in 2002 for the legal right to
    grow and smoke marijuana without fear of prosecution.

    Late last year, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of
    Appeals ruled in favor of Angel Raich and Diane Monson of Butte
    County, saying the federal government can't prosecute patients who use
    marijuana in states that have adopted medical marijuana laws.

    Among others things, two of the three judges declared, those patients
    who grow their own medicine, and do not sell it or move it across
    state lines, are not violating the interstate commerce clause of the
    Controlled Substance Act of 1970.

    For years, federal agents and prosecutors relied on that portion of
    the drug law to combat trafficking.

    The Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to review the 9th
    Circuit ruling this year. There was no comment yesterday from the
    Justice Department, a spokesman in Washington, D.C., said. Similarly,
    no one from the Drug Enforcement Administration returned calls for
    comment yesterday.

    Supporters of medical marijuana, meanwhile, crossed their fingers that
    the gains they have made in recent years would not be reversed once
    the Supreme Court hears the case this coming winter.

    "We have very mixed emotions about it, but I guess it's something that
    has to move forward," said Claudia Little, a retired nurse from Point
    Loma who smokes marijuana to reduce the chronic pain she gets from

    "The way things are right now, we're in a pretty good spot," she said.
    "But it has to be decided one way or another."

    Jerry Meier, chairman of San Diego's medical marijuana task force,
    which helped write the city's guidelines under the state's
    Compassionate Use Act of 1996, said he hopes the Supreme Court uses
    this case to make a definitive ruling on the issue.

    Twice in recent years, the high court has considered the medical use
    of marijuana, but both of those opinions were limited to narrow legal

    "I wish it would just end and people could just go on about the
    business of treating their illnesses," Meier said. "This just keeps
    dragging on and on and on."

    The Supreme Court ruled in October that the federal government could
    not punish doctors who recommend marijuana to AIDS, cancer and other
    patients. Three years ago, however, the same court decided that
    medical necessity was not a legal defense for breaking drug laws.
  3. Alfa
    Cannabis Case Goes to U.S. High Court

    OAKLAND - The hopes of medical marijuana patients throughout America
    rest on the frail shoulders of Angel Raich.

    Raich, a 38-year-old mother of two has been left rail-thin by the
    chronic nausea that is one of the complications of an inoperable brain

    On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would hear the Oakland
    woman's case against Attorney General John Ashcroft, who she sued in
    2002 for her right to keep using the doctor-prescribed marijuana that
    she says is the only thing that helps her keep up her strength and

    The case may well define the federal government's future approach to
    medical marijuana.

    Raich said hers is a deeply personal fight.

    "It's about whether the federal government has the right to decide who
    in this country may live and who may die," Raich said Monday, soon
    after learning the court would hear her case.

    "I've never had a speeding ticket. I'm a law-abiding citizen, and I do
    not deserve to be sentenced to death just because cannabis is the only
    medicine for me."

    The case involves Raich, a second patient, Diane Monson of Butte
    County, and two unidentified men who grow marijuana and supply it to
    Raich and Monson for free as the two patients' "caregivers" under
    state Proposition 215, the medical marijuana law passed by voters in

    The legal question boils down to whether federal laws can be used to
    deny marijuana to sick patients who use it with a doctor's

    Raich and the other plaintiffs argue that since in their case the drug
    is grown, distributed and used in California, federal rules do not
    apply. Historically, the federal government has cited the interstate
    commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution for the power to regulate the
    distribution of medicine.

    They filed suit after several federal raids on California medical
    marijuana clubs and individual growers over the past few years,
    arguing their supplies might dry up.

    They won a major victory in December when a three-judge panel on the
    9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the federal crackdown had
    overstepped its authority under the commerce clause.

    The court issued an injunction barring the U.S. Justice Department
    from prosecuting Raich, Monson or their suppliers.

    Raich's "caregivers" have continued to supply her with the 2 1/2 ounces
    of marijuana she uses each week. She smokes it in a pipe, inhales it
    with a vaporizer or infuses cooking oil with the drug and then uses
    the oil in baked goods.

    The Bush administration appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme
    Court, arguing that federal drug laws trump the state's medical
    marijuana law.

    Solicitor General Theodore Olson, in his brief to the high court, said
    that Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act to control "all
    manufacturing, possession and distribution of any" drug it lists,
    including marijuana.

    The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in placing an injunction
    against prosecuting Raich and Monson for using marijuana, ruled in
    December that the federal law outlawing marijuana does not apply to
    patients whose doctors have recommended the drug.

    Appeals court justice Harry Pregerson wrote that states are free to
    adopt medical marijuana laws so long as the marijuana is not sold,
    transported across state lines or used for nonmedicinal purposes.

    The high court will hear the case sometime next winter.

    In a related 2001 case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the
    Oakland Cannabis Buyer's Cooperative in its assertion that it could
    distribute marijuana based on the "medical necessity" of patients who
    have a doctor's recommendation.

    Robert Raich, who is Angel Raich's attorney and husband, said that
    several justices indicated they might rule differently if individual
    patients came before the court to assert their rights to access
    marijuana as a "medical necessity."

    Angel Raich, who was a cooperative member at the time of the 2001
    ruling, seemed a perfect plaintiff to bring a new case. She said she
    has used marijuana daily for the past seven years after suffering
    allergic reactions to more than 50 medications she previously used to
    address her medical problems.

    "Medical cannabis has saved my life," Raich said. "I really hope the
    U.S. Supreme Court will allow me to survive."

    Gerald Uelmen, a professor of law at the Santa Clara University School
    of Law who argued the 2001 case in front of the Supreme Court, said
    the court's decision to hear this case came as no surprise and that he
    believes the two patients' stories present the strongest possible argument.

    "This case does not present any issue of distribution, and that's
    important," said Uelmen, adding that distribution could sway the court
    against possible medical marijuana use.

    Uelmen said he would not be surprised to see some of the court's more
    conservative members agree with the side favoring states' rights, even
    though it would mean allowing marijuana use for medical reasons.

    "I think this is a very close issue in the court," he said.
  4. Alfa

    SAN FRANCISCO -- The Supreme Court said yesterday it would decide
    whether the government has the power to prevent sick patients from
    using marijuana with a doctor's recommendation.

    The California case tests whether the federal government -- which
    maintains there is no medical benefit to marijuana -- can block sick
    patients from using cannabis and prosecute them or their suppliers.

    The case began after several raids on California medical marijuana
    clubs and individual growers over the past few years.

    The case also affects Hawai'i, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Maine,
    Nevada, Oregon and Washington state. They have medical marijuana laws
    similar to California's allowing patients to grow, use or receive
    marijuana if they have a doctor's recommendation.

    The number of people participating in Hawai'i's medical marijuana
    program has been climbing, said state Narcotics Enforcement Division
    administrator Keith Kamita, who oversees the program.

    In June 2001 -- about six months after the state began accepting
    applications -- only 255 patients participated and 35 physicians
    participated in the program, Kamita said. Now there are 1,514 patients
    and 99 physicians participating, he said.

    The Big Island has the most patients, with 795. Following are Kaua'i
    with 324, O'ahu at 214, Maui with 168, Ni'ihau with six, Moloka'i with
    five and Lana'i with two.

    Under the Hawai'i law, only patients with a "debilitating medical
    condition" -- such as cancer, glaucoma, AIDS or other chronic
    conditions that cause severe pain, nausea or seizures -- can possess
    and grow marijuana for medical purposes.

    The law requires physicians to submit an application to the narcotics
    division, explaining why a patient wants to use marijuana.

    Patients also need an annual statement from a physician to qualify for
    the program.

    Patients are limited to three mature marijuana plants, four immature

    marijuana plants and one ounce of usable marijuana per mature plant
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