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Stage Set for Legal Showdown Over Pot


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Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Author: Eric Bailey, Times Staff Writer
Published: May 19, 2003
Copyright: 2004 Los Angeles Times
Contact: [email protected]

Sacramento -- A pair of medical marijuana patients won legal protection Tuesday against arrest and federal prosecution, setting the stage for a U.S. Supreme Court showdown to determine whether states can allow cannabis to be used as medicine.

U.S. District Judge Martin Jenkins in San Francisco issued a preliminary injunction against the U.S. preventing it from pursuing a drug case against the two patients Angel Raich of Oakland and Diane Monson of Oroville and two anonymous caregivers who supply the pot.

Tuesday's court order was expected in the wake of a December ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which declared that Raich and Monson were within their rights to use marijuana as medicine. As part of that decision, the three-judge panel ordered the lower court to issue a preliminary injunction against the federal government.

Despite that certainty, Raich expressed happiness that the ruling had arrived and said she was looking forward to the case going before the U.S. Supreme Court, perhaps by year's end.

"I want the public to know what the federal government has been doing after 9/11," she said. 

Raich, who uses marijuana to offset the effects of an inoperable brain tumor, chronic wasting and numerous other illnesses, said she hoped her case would lead to the broader use of a drug that she considers a lifesaver. 

Medical marijuana is legal in California with a doctor's recommendation, but federal law prohibits the use of pot for any purpose. Raich and Monson have argued that U.S. drug laws, which are based on the federal government's right to regulate commerce between the states, do not apply to them because the marijuana they consume is grown and consumed entirely within California.

Federal prosecutors are pressing ahead with a challenge in the U.S. Supreme Court, with oral arguments expected by early next year. But the high court might get an opportunity to step into the fray this summer if the Bush administration pushes, as expected, to reverse the 9th Circuit decision until the full case is heard.

Until then the appellate court ruling remains a binding precedent in the seven states within the 9th Circuit's jurisdiction that have medical cannabis laws. 

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