U.S. District Judge Issues Preliminary Injunction Barring U.S. DOJ From Pursuing Medical Marijuana Case
U.S. District Judge Martin Jenkins in San Francisco on Tuesday issued a preliminary injunction that prevents federal officials from pursuing a case against medical marijuana patients and two caregivers who provided the drug, the Los Angeles Times reports. The decision "set[s] the stage for a U.S. Supreme Court showdown" that could determine whether states can permit medical marijuana use, according to the Times (Bailey, Los Angeles Times, 5/19). The ruling concerns a case involving Angel Raich of Oakland and Diane Monson of Oroville, who received letters from their physicians authorizing them to use marijuana for medical purposes; the physicians' permission protected them from state and local prosecution under Proposition 215, a 1996 ballot measure that legalized medical use of marijuana. Monson had been subject to a federal raid in August 2002 during which six of her marijuana plants were seized and destroyed. To protect themselves from further federal interference with their treatment, Raich and Monson filed a lawsuit in October 2002 against Attorney General John Ashcroft (R) and then Drug Enforcement Agency Chief Asa Hutchinson, and when a district judge ruled against them, they appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court. In December, a three-judge panel of that court ruled 2-1 that prosecuting people who use marijuana for medical purposes under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act is unconstitutional in states where the drug's use is allowed under a physician's advice, provided that the marijuana is not sold, transported across state lines or used for nonmedical purposes (California Healthline, 2/27). That verdict also ordered the lower court to issue the preliminary injunction against the federal government. Federal prosecutors are "pressing ahead" with a U.S. Supreme Court challenge, according to the Times. Oral arguments are anticipated by early next year, but the court may "step into the fray this summer if the Bush administration pushes, as expected, to reverse the 9th Circuit decision until the full case is heard," the Times reports (Los Angeles Times, 5/19).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.