MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Federal Judge Lifts Ban
In a reversal of his own 1998 order, U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer yesterday ruled that the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative, a medicinal marijuana club, can distribute the drug to seriously ill patients, the New York Times reports. Advocates hailed the decision as a victory in the fight to legalize medical marijuana, a treatment believed to help curb weight loss in AIDS patients, alleviate nausea caused by chemotherapy in cancer patients, treat glaucoma and ease chronic pain associated with multiple sclerosis (7/18). "I'm glad to see that the judicial branch of government finally recognizes ... that patients should be able to have access to the medicine they need," Robert Raich, an attorney representing the Oakland club, said, adding, "The federal government is fighting an unwinnable war, using patients as pawns" (Glionna, Los Angeles Times, 7/18). John Entwhistle, a spokesperson for Californians for Compassionate Use, called Breyer's decision "the tip of the iceberg," adding, "We think at least the feds are starting to recognize the strength and reality of the medical necessity of using marijuana as medicine" (Hanley, AP/USA Today, 7/18). In his ruling, Breyer said the federal government had failed to prove that seriously ill patients should not have access to the drug. Jeff Jones, executive director of the Oakland club, called for the government to reclassify marijuana as "an accepted therapeutic plant." Entwhistle said he hopes the drug "will end up in our pharmacies and grocery stores." In 1996, California passed Proposition 215, an initiative allowing the use of medical marijuana, but the measure violates federal law, which does not "recognize any medical properties" of the drug. Justice Department spokesperson Gretchen Michael said officials have reviewed Breyer's ruling but did not comment further (New York Times, 7/18). Clinton administration officials have indicated that they may appeal the decision to the Supreme Court (Los Angeles Times, 7/18).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.