California Appeals Court Decision on Medical Marijuana Upholds Several Rights, Advocate Says
The decision by a California appeals court to prevent efforts by the federal government to revoke licenses of physicians who recommend medical marijuana to their patients "upholds the right" of physicians to offer medical advice, Daniel Abrahamson, director of legal affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, writes in a San Francisco Chronicle opinion piece. He adds that the decision "drives a stake through" the position of the federal government that marijuana serves no medical purpose and provides a "resounding victory" in state efforts to legalize medical marijuana (Abrahamson, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/3). In the case, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco last week ruled that the federal government may not investigate or revoke the licenses of physicians who recommend marijuana use to patients with chronic illnesses, such as AIDS or cancer. The decision affects medical marijuana laws in California, Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, but not in states outside the jurisdiction of the court (California Healthline, 10/30). According to Abrahamson, the decision allows patients with chronic illnesses to receive "honest opinions" from their physicians without interference from the federal government. In addition, he writes that the decision "gives a green light" to states "poised" to pass laws to legalize medical marijuana. Abrahamson concludes, "In short, the ... decision is welcome for those who believe in the sanctity of the physician-patient relationship, the autonomy of the states to legislate on matters of health and the efficacy of medical marijuana" (San Francisco Chronicle, 11/3).
Meanwhile, according to a Santa Rosa Press Democrat editorial, the failure of the federal government to allow limited use of medical marijuana denies "relief" for patients with chronic illnesses. In 1996, California voters passed Proposition 215, a ballot measure that allows patients with chronic illnesses to use medical marijuana to treat pain, but the "federal government's determination to thwart the will" of state voters has precluded many patients from treatment with marijuana. Although the appeals court decision last week will help such patients, federal law still prohibits the use of marijuana. The editorial concludes, "One wonders if anyone in Washington ever considers the cruelty and inhumanity of this policy that refuses to distinguish between recreational drugs and medical need" (Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 11/4).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.