Medical Marijuana Advocates Lose Latest Round in Court
The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday reaffirmed a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that asserted the federal government's right to prosecute patients and suppliers using marijuana for medical purposes, the Los Angeles Times reports. The ruling extends to residents of the 11 states in which marijuana is a legal medicine (Bailey, Los Angeles Times, 3/15).
In June 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that the federal government has the authority to prohibit and prosecute the possession and use of marijuana for medical purposes. The case involved a lawsuit filed by two California residents: Angel Raich -- who has a brain tumor, life-threatening weight loss, a seizure disorder and nausea -- and Diana Monson, who has severe back pain and constant muscle spasms caused by a degenerative spine disease (California Healthline, 6/7/05).
After the ruling Wednesday, Raich said, "I feel like I'm a dead man walking because I'm the first person in the country who has been told they do not have a right to life" (Los Angeles Times, 3/15).
Robert Raich, Angel Raich's husband and lawyer, said they might appeal the case to the full 9th Circuit Court (McKinley, New York Times, 3/15).
The three-judge panel said there is no right "deeply rooted in this nation's history and traditions" to use medical marijuana to reduce pain or delay death. Judge Harry Pregerson said, "For now, federal law is blind to the wisdom of a future day when the right to use medical marijuana to alleviate excruciating pain may be deemed fundamental" (Egelko/Herron Zamora, San Francisco Chronicle, 3/15).
The court added that it "recognizes the use of marijuana for medical purposes is gaining traction" but that "legal recognition has not yet reached the point" where medical marijuana is a fundamental right (New York Times, 3/15). The court said that if prosecuted for marijuana possession, Angel Raich could use a "medical necessity defense," meaning she possessed the drug as a last resort to stay alive (AP/Chicago Tribune, 3/15).
NPR's "Morning Edition" on Thursday reported on the ruling. The segment includes comments from Angel and Robert Raich and Robert DuPont, director of White House drug policy during the Nixon and Ford administrations (Gonzales, "Morning Edition," NPR, 3/15).
Audio of the segment is available online.