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Commentary: Courting Medical Marijuana 


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Source: Orange County Register, The (CA)
Published: Friday, July 2, 2004
Copyright: 2004 The Orange County Register
Contact: [email protected]

The U.S. Supreme Court seldom explains why it decides which cases it takes, so it is hard to know why it agreed to hear an appeal from a key 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on medical marijuana last December. Whatever the reasons, the high court will face a fascinating dilemma.

In Raich v. Ashcroft last year, the 9th Circuit found that the federal government had no authority to arrest or prosecute two medical marijuana patients, Angel Raich of Oakland and Diane Monson of Oroville, and the two anonymous caregivers who supplied them with cannabis. 

The reason? The patients get their cannabis without buying it or crossing state borders and obtain it in compliance with state law. Therefore there is no interstate commerce going on, and without interstate commerce the federal government has no justification to interfere with their medical regimen.

As a result of the 9th Circuit decision, other courts have effectively ended what looked like a concerted campaign by the U.S. Justice Department to subvert California's medical marijuana law by arresting patients. In March a judge decided to allow a San Bernardino couple to tell a jury the marijuana they grew was for medical purposes. In April a patient was released from federal prison pending appeal under the Raich decision, and a federal judge issued an injunction against federal interference with the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana in Santa Cruz.

The Justice Department asked urgently for an appeal to the Supreme Court.

The dilemma? The high court has issued several recent decisions (notably in the Lopez and Morrison cases) limiting the ability of the federal government to use the interstate commerce clause as justification for micromanaging local matters. Chief Justice Rehnquist is said to consider a restoration of states' rights and privileges to be a major personal goal, as part of restoring more balance to the federalist system.

Will the court affirm federalist principles or give the Justice Department a green light to torment sick people? We're rooting for federalism.

Related Articles & Web Sites:

Raich vs. Ashcroft

Angel Raich v. John Ashcroft News

Transcript: Supreme Court & MMJ

Medical Marijuana: A Nation Gone To Pot?

Protecting Patients' Rights

Court To Decide if Anti-Drug Laws Apply




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