|Supreme Court Upholds Medical Marijuana Ban|
In a unanimous 8-0 decision, the U.S. Supreme court ruled on Monday that marijuana may not be distributed to persons who prove a medical necessity for the drug. The court's decision affirms an existing federal law that classifies marijuana as an illegal substance and offers no medical exceptions.
Justice Stephen Breyer did not take part in the case because his brother, a federal judge, presided over a related case in 1998.
Noting that current federal law states marijuana has "no currently accepted medical use," Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in the court's unanimous opinion, "In the case of the Controlled Substances Act, the statute reflects a determination that marijuana has no medical benefits worthy of an exception (outside the confines of a government-approved research project)."
Today's decision came in response to an appeal from the U.S. Department of Justice to a Sept. 8, 2000 injunction issued by U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup in San Francisco banning the government from investigating or prosecuting physicians who recommending marijuana as a medical treatment, and allowing medical marijuana clubs to continue serving patients who could prove marijuana was, to them, a "medical necessity."
Today's Supreme Court decision seemingly ends the battle between federal drug laws preventing distribution of marijuana for any reason, and California's Proposition 215, a 1996 ballot initiative allowing patients, with a doctor's recommendation, to grow, possess and use the drug for pain relief. The states of Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington all have similar laws.
Supporters of legalized medical marijuana use argued that Judge Alsup's ruling of Sept. 8 did not prevent the government form prosecuting individuals who violate federal drug laws.
The Justice Department first challenged California's Proposition 215 in 1998, when U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco, issued an injunction preventing the Oakland, California Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative and similar clubs from distributing marijuana.
In 1998, the Justice Department won an injunction from U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco prohibiting the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative and other similar medicinal marijuana clubs from distributing cannabis.
Today's Supreme Court's ruling neither addresses nor changes existing state laws dealing with marijuana. It does mean however, that marijuana users and distributors cannot use medical necessity as a defense against prosecution at the federal level.
Following today's decision, Robert Raich, an attorney who argued for the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative, stated that the Supreme Court's opinion had not addressed several remaining constitutional questions including the rights of states to set their own laws on the medicinal use of marijuana.
"The next step is to go back to the lower courts and address fully these important constitutional questions," Raich told reporters.