Appeals Court Should Allow Doctors to Recommend Medical Marijuana, New York Times Says
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco "should not delay in calling an end" to the federal government's "mean-spirited and unconstitutional" campaign to punish doctors who recommend medical marijuana for patients with serious illnesses, according to a New York Times editorial (New York Times, 5/25). In 1996, California passed Proposition 215 and became the first state to legalize the use of marijuana to relieve pain associated with chronic illnesses such as cancer and AIDS. Under the law, doctors can recommend medical marijuana to patients but cannot prescribe the drug. After the law passed, the federal government threatened to revoke the licenses of doctors who recommended medical marijuana, a drug considered illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act. A group of doctors and patients filed suit to block federal action against the physicians, and in 2000, U.S. District Judge William Alsup ruled that the government cannot revoke a physician's license to prescribe other medications "merely because the doctor recommends medical marijuana to a patient based on a sincere medical judgment." The government has appealed the case, and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in April (California Healthline, 4/9). According to the Times, the government "wants to punish physicians merely for advising a patient about the benefits" of medical marijuana, which "clashes with the free-speech protections" of the First Amendment. The editorial concludes, "The California appeals court judges have an opportunity to strike an important blow for free speech and honesty in medicine by striking down the medical marijuana gag rule" (New York Times, 5/25).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.