Source: Sacramento Bee (CA)
Author: Claire Cooper -- Bee Legal Affairs Writer
Published: Tuesday, June 29, 2004
Copyright: 2004 The Sacramento Bee
Contact: [email protected]
The U.S. Supreme Court will consider next term whether the federal government lacks the power to prosecute medical pot users and caregivers whose activities do not involve interstate commerce, the justices announced Monday.
The decision, expected by early next year, could provide a blueprint for legal marijuana operations in the nine states that try to protect medical users from prosecution and nine more where efforts to enact protective laws are under way.
Or, if the federal government prevails, the decision could deliver a lethal blow to the medical marijuana movement that was fired eight years ago by the approval of legalization initiatives in California and Arizona. The high court accepted the case at the urging of the Bush administration.
"I am excited, nervous and also fearful to go before the Supreme Court because there's so much at stake here. I could actually lose my life," said Angel-Raich, one of two plaintiffs in the test case.
Raich, of Oakland, uses marijuana for relief from an inoperable brain tumor and other ailments. She and Diane Monson of Oroville, who has a degenerative spine disease, initiated the legal showdown by asking a judge to enjoin federal interference with their pot supplies.
Although the medical pot legalization movement has grown rapidly, especially in the Western states, its effectiveness has been curtailed by federal raids and arrests, especially in California. The U.S. drug law, the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, makes no exception for medical use.
Ashcroft v. Raich is an attempt to break the federal-state stalemate for some users and providers. Raich and Monson argue that the federal law's reach does not extend to noncommercial cultivation and use of state-sanctioned pot wholly inside the state's borders.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in the women's favor last year, drawing on recent Supreme Court rulings. The high court has invoked principles of states' rights, or federalism, to bar federal regulation of guns, pornography and domestic violence where interstate commerce wasn't implicated.
Randy Barnett, a Boston University law professor who represented Raich and Monson in the circuit, said the upcoming review "represents a historic opportunity for the Supreme Court to affirm that federalism is not just for conservative causes."
Whatever the decision, other cases will be affected immediately.
The 9th Circuit this month returned four cases involving medical pot cooperatives to federal district judges with instructions to reconsider them in light of the final Raich decision.
Several individual defendants also have based their defenses on the 9th Circuit's Raich ruling. They include Bryan Epis of Chico, whose appeal was heard this month, and David Davidson of Oakland and Cynthia Blake of Red Bluff, who face charges in federal district court in Sacramento.
Related Articles & Web Sites:
Raich vs. Ashcroft
Bryan Epis Protest Pictures & Articles
Analysis: Medical Marijuana Debate Renews
Supreme Court Will Hear Medical Marijuana Case
Appeals Court Reviews First Medical Pot Conviction