Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Author: Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
Published: Monday, June 28, 2004
Copyright: 2004 San Francisco Chronicle
Contact: [email protected]
The U.S. Supreme Court, in an order that could mean bad news for medical marijuana advocates, agreed Monday to hear the Bush administration's challenge of a ruling that protects marijuana patients in California from federal prosecution.
The administration is appealing a decision in December by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco that barred federal drug agents from interfering with the growing and use of marijuana by two women, Angel Raich of Oakland and Diane Monson of Oroville.
The Supreme Court may represent marijuana advocates' last hope of fending off the federal government's attack on medical marijuana operations in California that followed passage of Proposition 215, the 1996 initiative that legalized medical use of the drug under state law. The Clinton administration moved to shut down clubs that sprang up around the state to supply marijuana to patients, and the Bush administration has escalated raids and criminal prosecutions.
However, the court has consistently rejected challenges to federal drug laws. Three years ago, the justices overturned another Ninth Circuit decision that would have allowed cannabis clubs to distribute marijuana, without risking federal prosecution, to patients who could show a medical necessity for it.
In the current case, both women had doctors' recommendations to use marijuana for their medical conditions and obtained it without charge from local supplies.
The appeals court said prosecuting them under federal drug laws would be unconstitutional because their activities did not involve interstate commerce, which Congress is authorized to regulate.
A federal judge in San Jose has already relied on that ruling to prohibit further federal enforcement action against a Santa Cruz medical marijuana collective that was raided by federal agents in 2002.
Justice Department lawyers argued, however, that all distribution of illegal drugs, including marijuana, affects interstate commerce and can be prohibited by federal law. The appellate ruling "seriously undermines Congress' comprehensive scheme for the regulation of dangerous drugs," government lawyers said in papers filed with the Supreme Court.
The court announced Monday that it would review the case in the term that starts in October, with a ruling due by June 2005.
Related Articles & Web Sites:
Raich vs. Ashcroft
Raich v. Ashcroft in PDF
Marijuana Dispute Gets Supreme Court Hearing
Supreme Court To Decide Medical Marijuana Case
Supreme Court To Hear Case on Medical Pot