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  1. PenguinPhreak
    Supreme Court Allows Prosecution of Medical Marijuana



    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. Supreme Court Monday ruled doctors can be
    blocked from prescribing marijuana for patients suffering from pain
    caused by cancer or other serious illnesses.



    In a 6-3 vote, the justices ruled the Bush administration can block the
    backyard cultivation of pot for personal use, because such use has
    broader social and financial implications.



    "Congress' power to regulate purely activities that are part of an
    economic 'class of activities' that have a substantial effect on
    interstate commerce is firmly established," wrote Justice John Paul
    Stevens for the majority.



    Justices O'Connor, Rehnquist and Thomas dissented. The case took an
    unusually long time to be resolved, with oral arguments held in
    November.



    The decision means that federal anti-drug laws trump state laws that
    allow the use of medical marijuana, said CNN Senior Legal Analyst
    Jeffrey Toobin. Ten states have such laws.



    "If medical marijuana advocates want to get their views successfully
    presented, they have to go to Congress; they can't go to the states,
    because it's really the federal government that's in charge here,"
    Toobin said.



    At issue was the power of federal government to override state laws on use of "patient pot."



    The Controlled Substances Act prevents the cultivation and possession
    of marijuana, even by people who claim personal "medicinal" use. The
    government argues its overall anti-drug campaign would be undermined by
    even limited patient exceptions.



    The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) began raids in 2001 against patients
    using the drug and their caregivers in California, one of 11 states
    that legalized the use of marijuana for patients under a doctor's care.
    Among those arrested was Angel Raich, who has brain cancer, and Diane
    Monson, who grew cannabis in her garden to help alleviate chronic back
    pain.



    A federal appeals court concluded use of medical marijuana was
    non-commercial, and therefore not subject to congressional oversight of
    "economic enterprise."



    But lawyers for the U.S. Justice Department argued to the Supreme Court
    that homegrown marijuana represented interstate commerce, because the
    garden patch weed would affect "overall production" of the weed, much
    of it imported across American borders by well-financed, often violent
    drug gangs.



    Lawyers for the patient countered with the claim that the marijuana was
    neither bought nor sold. After California's referendum passed in 1996,
    "cannabis clubs" sprung up across the state to provide marijuana to
    patients. They were eventually shut down by the state's attorney
    general.



    The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that anyone distributing medical
    marijuana could be prosecuted, despite claims their activity was a
    "medical activity."



    The current case considered by the justices dealt with the broader
    issue of whether marijuana users could be subject to prosecution.



    Along with California, nine states have passed laws permitting
    marijuana use by patients with a doctor's approval: Alaska, Colorado,
    Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. Arizona
    also has a similar law, but no formal program in place to administer
    prescription pot.



    California's Compassionate Use Act permits patients with a doctor's
    approval to grow, smoke or acquire the drug for "medical needs."



    Users include television host Montel Williams, who uses it to ease pain from multiple sclerosis.



    Anti-drug activists say Monday's ruling could encourage abuse of drugs deemed by the government to be narcotics.



    "It's a handful of people who want to see not just marijuana, but all
    drugs legalized," said Calvina Fay of the Drug Free America Foundation.



    In its hard-line stance in opposition to medical marijuana, the federal
    government invoked a larger issue. "The trafficking of drugs finances
    the work of terror, sustaining terrorists," said President Bush in
    December 2001. Tough enforcement, the government told the justices, "is
    central to combating illegal drug possession."



    Marijuana users, in their defense, argued, "Since September 11, 2001,
    Defendants [DEA] have terrorized more than 35 Californians because of
    medical cannabis." In that state, the issue has become a hot political
    issue this election year.

Comments

  1. BA
    DrugSense FOCUS Alert #309 - Monday, 6 June 2005

    The Supreme Court ruled Monday that state medical marijuana laws don't
    protect users from a federal ban on the drug - allowing federal authorities
    to prosecute sick people for their use of medical cannabis, even if on the
    advice of their doctors.

    The decision is on line in various formats here
    http://straylight.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/03-1454.ZS.html and as a 79
    page .pdf file here http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/04pdf/03-1454.pdf

    In its majority opinion against Raich and Monson (page 6), the Supreme
    Court issued a significant word of warning about the wisdom of current
    federal laws:

    "The case is made difficult by respondents' strong arguments that they will
    suffer irreparable harm because, despite a congressional finding to the
    contrary, marijuana does have valid therapeutic purposes. The question
    before us, however, is not whether it is wise to enforce the statute in
    these circumstances; rather, it is whether Congress' power to regulate
    interstate markets for medicinal substances encompasses the portions of
    those markets that are supplied with drugs produced and consumed locally."

    ************************************************************ **********

    Organizations are calling for you to act and providing detailed advice on
    the best ways to respond. Please see:

    http://actioncenter.drugpolicy.org/action/index.asp?step=2&i tem=25197

    http://www.mpp.org/raich/

    http://www.raichaction.org/

    http://hinchey.kintera.org

    http://www.norml.org/index.cfm?Group_ID=6550

    http://www.angeljustice.org

    ************************************************************ **********

    Here are a few points to consider:

    The single most important thing to understand is that state and local laws
    on the books protecting medical cannabis patients and their doctors will
    continue to stand and are not at all affected by this ruling.

    As you can see from this split decision, the Court has ruled on very
    technical legal grounds, particularly on medical cannabis as a commerce
    issue. However, we are heartened that the Court was clear in recognizing
    the medical necessity for seriously ill patients like Angel.

    The Attorney General and the federal government now have a choice: They can
    choose to continue wasting taxpayers' dollars raiding the homes of sick and
    dying patients-- suffering from diseases like cancer, chronic pain,
    leukemia, multiple sclerosis and AIDS--who are abiding by state and local
    laws, or they can choose more worthwhile priorities, like national security
    or arresting terrorists. The federal government should not compound the
    suffering of sick and dying patients.

    The federal government actually makes only 1% of all marijuana related
    arrests in the country. While 99% protection from arrest isn't perfect, it
    is still substantial. It is more urgent than ever before for states to act
    to protect patients from arrests and harassment.

    ************************************************************ **********

    The press will have a field day with this story - and will likely make
    factual errors in their reporting which will enhance your chances of being
    published if you write letters. Expect many targets for letters to the
    editor in the days ahead.

    Please check this link frequently, watching for news clippings with a
    "Pubdate" of Mon, 06 Jun 2005 or later, to help you find targets for your
    letters:

    http://www.mapinc.org/topics/Raich

    ************************************************************ **********

    Thanks for your effort and support.

    It's not what others do it's what YOU do

    ************************************************************ **********

    Additional suggestions for writing LTEs are at our Media Activism Center:

    http://www.mapinc.org/resource/

    Or contact MAP Media Activism Facilitator Steve Heath for personal tips on
    how to write LTEs that get printed.

    heath@mapinc.org

    ************************************************************ **********

    PLEASE SEND US A COPY OF YOUR LETTER

    Please post a copy of your letter or report your action to the sent letter
    list (sentlte@mapinc.org) if you are subscribed, or by E-mailing a copy
    directly to heath@mapinc.org if you are not subscribed. Your letter will
    then be forwarded to the list so others can learn from your efforts.

    Subscribing to the Sent LTE list (sentlte@mapinc.org) will help you to
    review other sent LTEs and perhaps come up with new ideas or approaches as
    well as keeping others aware of your important writing efforts.

    To subscribe to the Sent LTE mailing list see

    http://www.mapinc.org/lists/index.htm#form

    ************************************************************ **********
    Prepared by: Stephen Heath, MAP Media Activism Facilitator
    ===
    DrugSense provides many services at no charge, but they are not free to
    produce. Your contributions make DrugSense and its Media Awareness
    Project (MAP) happen. Please donate today. Our secure Web server at
    http://www.drugsense.org/donate.htm accepts credit cards. Or, mail
    your check or money or order to:
    .
    DrugSense
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    (800) 266 5759
    .
    DrugSense is a 501c(3) non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness
    about the expensive, ineffective, and destructive "War on Drugs." Donations
    are tax deductible to the extent provided by law.
  2. Pinkavvy
    this news made me cry today.

    this is a terrible blow against medical marijuana. I hope the states will stand up for their 10th ammendment rights, and disobey this decision.

    on the bright side, this the the supreme court acknowleding that the issue should be taken to congress, which could give way for a bill to hold ground on a federal level to allow for medical marijuana.
  3. Alfa
    FOR ALASKA, MARIJUANA SITUATION STATUS QUO, OFFICIALS INDICATE


    Sick Alaskans who have been allowed to use marijuana under doctors'


    orders could face federal prosecution under a U.S. Supreme Court decision issued Monday, according to federal authorities.


    The Supreme Court ruled that federal authorities may prosecute people using marijuana for medical purposes even if state laws allow such use.


    However, federal officials that oversee Alaska said Monday the ruling is unlikely to result in a rash of prosecutions here.


    Eric Gonzalez, spokesman for Alaska's FBI, said he couldn't recall a federal prosecution of a medical marijuana patient in Alaska.


    "We typically target large-scale organizations," he said. This case "will have no impact on what the FBI is doing here in Anchorage, in Alaska."


    Alaskans legalized marijuana for medical use in a 1998 ballot initiative. But all marijuana possession remains against federal law.


    The state has 198 currently registered medical users and a total of 570 since the law was passed, according to the state Bureau of Vital Statistics.


    Registered user Jim Welch of Eagle River said he is worried that the decision could be used by Gov. Frank Murkowski to push an anti-marijuana agenda. Murkowski has proposed to increase penalties for marijuana possession and use at home.


    Although directed at a challenged law in California, Monday's ruling likely applies to Alaska, state and federal officials said.


    In addition to medical use, adult Alaskans are allowed to possess up to four ounces of pot for personal use in their homes. State courts reaffirmed that right last year, citing the state constitution's privacy clause.


    Alaska Attorney General David Marquez said in a written statement that his office will be analyzing the Supreme Court ruling to see if it means medical marijuana is still legal in Alaska.


    Other states have had instances in which caregivers licensed to provide marijuana to patients have used their licenses to run drug operations, said Rodney Benson, special agent in charge of the U.S.


    Drug Enforcement Agency in Seattle. The Seattle office oversees Alaska.


    Local prosecutors also have had a couple of cases involving caregivers who had more marijuana than is allowed, said Phil Moberly, who oversees the felony drug unit in the Anchorage district attorney's office.


    But Benson said the DEA, like the FBI, focuses on large-scale trafficking and will continue to do so, but if authorities see signs that caregivers are taking advantage of their licenses to traffic in pot, they will target them.


    Benson called the decision devastating to the marijuana legalization movement.


    Advocates of legalization disagreed. Patients have always lived under the threat of federal prosecution and that hasn't changed with the ruling, said David Finkelstein, a former legislator who helped lead the successful 1998 campaign.


    "This is basically the status quo," he said. But he said the ruling was still disappointing.


    Welch said he wasn't more worried about prosecution than before.


    "I'm more concerned with Murkowski's demonization of the whole thing,"


    he said.


    But possession remains vulnerable to federal prosecution, Gonzalez said. Any amount of pot is considered contraband under federal law, he said.
  4. Alfa
    PLAINTIFFS SAY THEY WON'T STOP FIGHTING - OR LIGHTING


    Lobbying Congress, More Legal Wrangling to Follow Court Ruling


    Two Northern California mothers who insist they could die without medicinal marijuana were undeterred by Monday's U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing federal authorities to continue arresting people like themselves.


    "We are not criminals, we are sick people who need medicine," said 39- year-old cancer patient Angel Raich of Oakland, who said she smokes marijuana every two hours -- about 9 pounds a year -- to fuel her appetite.


    She and 48-year-old Diane Monson of Oroville (Butte County) became the nation's most famous marijuana freedom fighters in 2002, after a federal raid of six pot plants at Monson's home. Raich's former pot supplier, the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative, was served with a federal injunction in 1998 barring it from dispensing marijuana.


    The women later sued U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, seeking protection from the federal government under California's 1996 voter-approved law that allows physician-recommended pot smoking. Yet federal authorities have continued to raid pot dispensaries and private homes in the 10 states that allow medical marijuana, often working over the objections of local law enforcement.


    The women's challenge to federal law hit a setback Monday when the Supreme Court ruled that state laws allowing pot smokers to use the drug with a doctor's recommendation do not supercede a federal ban on the drug. The Bush administration had argued that states could not defy the federal Controlled Substances Act, which declares marijuana to be not only illegal, but of no medical value.


    "I'm going to have to be prepared to be arrested," said Monson, who smokes marijuana several times daily to relieve back pain caused by a degenerative spine disease.


    Justice John Paul Stevens, writing Monday's 6-3 decision, said Congress could change the law to allow medical use of marijuana.


    Medicinal pot advocates are hoping a vote next week before the House of Representatives will be the first step toward such a new national law.


    On Monday, Raich and her husband, Robert, who also is her attorney, said they will go to Washington next week to lobby for a proposed amendment to a Department of Justice appropriations bill that would prevent federal persecution of medical marijuana users in states that allow medicinal use of the drug.


    Robert Raich characterized Monday's ruling as a small battle in a protracted war. He said he will continue his wife's legal fight, focusing on issues of constitutional due process and medical necessity that allow individuals to break the law to avoid suffering, on a case-by-case basis.


    "Today's Supreme Court decision is not going to affect patients and their daily lives, because 99 percent of marijuana arrests are done by state and local authorities," he said.


    Of the 750,000 annual marijuana arrests nationwide, most are state arrests for simple possession, said Bruce Mirken, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington.


    Arrests of people like Raich are rare. She now relies on private growers -- "my heroes, my caretakers" -- to maintain her marijuana supply, she said.


    Other medical cannabis clubs still operate openly in California and other states but have taken measures -- such as not keeping client lists -- to protect their customers from arrest. There are more than 100 medical pot clubs in the state, the majority in Northern California and more than half in the Bay Area, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.


    The clubs provide clean and safe alternatives to buying marijuana on the street, said Yvonne, who is 52 and uses cannabis to soothe leg spasms brought on by multiple sclerosis. The Richmond woman did not want to give her last name.


    "My friends and family don't all smoke pot, but they support it because of me," she said. "If I take Vicodin or Valium, I become a zombie. Cannabis relaxes my legs and lets me get on with my life."
  5. Ketamina
    I agree. So frustrating.

    There are appeals in the works, but sometimes it all seems so hopeless.
  6. allyourbase
    problems with this from a legal standpoint: this is a federal decision, classing of drugs is handled by the state, lower class drugs (like marijuana) are often only misdeameanors, which are handled by state or local police. thus, the alaskan FBI was right, unless those users had more than 4 ounces for "medicinal use" I highly doubt they would even be within federal jurisdiction for charges.
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