Medical Marijuana Users File Suit Against U.S. Government To Halt DEA Raids
Two California residents who use marijuana for medicinal purposes have filed suit against the federal government, alleging that the government's "continued attacks on medicinal marijuana users and suppliers" in California violate the Constitution, the San Jose Mercury News reports. The plaintiffs in the case are Diana Monson and Angel McClary Raich, both of whom use marijuana to relieve chronic pain, and two anonymous marijuana suppliers. The suit lists Attorney General John Ashcroft and Drug Enforcement Administration Director Asa Hutchinson as defendants (Reed, San Jose Mercury News, 10/10). Under Proposition 215, a ballot measure approved by California voters in 1996, patients with chronic diseases such as cancer and AIDS can use medical marijuana to treat pain. The state Supreme Court ruled in August that residents who cultivate or use medical marijuana with a physician's recommendation are protected from state prosecution under the law. But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that the federal Controlled Substances Act, which classifies marijuana as illegal, contains no exception for individuals with illnesses (California Healthline, 9/25). The lawsuit filed yesterday asks for an injunction preventing the federal government from enforcing the Controlled Substances Act (San Francisco Chronicle, 10/10). The San Francisco U.S. Attorney's and DEA offices declined to comment on the case.
Although the U.S. Supreme Court decision on marijuana concluded that federal law "supersedes" California's laws regarding the drug, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that several constitutional issues "remained unresolved" in the debate. Thomas stated that one such issue is whether the federal government has the "right to interfere with intrastate commerce and a citizen's right to use marijuana to relieve pain," the Mercury News reports (San Jose Mercury News, 10/10). Robert Raich, an attorney for the plaintiffs, cited the commerce argument, stating, "For the federal government to attack patients and caregivers for activities that never cross state lines is an absolute violation of the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution" (Adams, Chicago Tribune, 10/10). The suit also states that the federal government's actions violate the Fifth, Ninth and 10th Amendments (San Jose Mercury News, 10/10). Similar arguments were presented in a suit filed last month by the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana, which is requesting the return of 167 medical marijuana plants seized in a raid by federal agents in September (California Healthline, 9/25).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.