Supremes Uphold Status Quo

Supremes Uphold Status Quo
Posted by CN Staff on June 07, 2005 at 13:23:46 PT
By Ann Harrison, AlterNet
Source: AlterNet
California -- Medical marijuana patients say they are bloodied but unbowed by yesterday's Supreme Court ruling that the federal government can continue to override state laws permitting medical cannabis use.  The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that federal authorities have the power to prosecute medical cannabis patients. Medical cannabis patient Angel Raich says she has no plans to stop using marijuana under California law and will take her fight to Congress.
"Just because the Supreme Court today has ruled against me does not mean that the war on patients should begin," said Raich at an emotional press conference. "It means that it is time for the federal government to have some compassion and have some heart and please use common sense and not use taxpayer dollars to come in and lock us up."Raich, together with fellow patient Diane Monson sought a court order preventing the federal government from arresting them and two caregivers who grow Raich's medical cannabis. The action stemmed from a raid on Monson's property by federal authorities who seized the cannabis she grew to treat her chronic pain condition.The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted the women an injunction against prosecution, but the U.S. government appealed the case, Gonzales v. Raich, to the Supreme Court. The justices ruled in a 6-to-3 decision that the federal government can enforce federal drug laws through its power to regulate interstate commerce under the Commerce Clause.Angel Raich's husband, Robert Raich, who served as one of the attorneys in her case, viewed the decision as a narrow ruling that did not address questions of due process or medical necessity raised in the closely watched case. He emphasized that that the decision will not impact state medical marijuana laws in Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Vermont that protect patients from arrest by state and local authorities. Raich noted that federal agencies make only 1 percent of the nation's 750,000 marijuana arrests every year."This case had much to gain to protect patients under federal law but nothing to lose because state law is in effect and it preserves the status quo," Robert Raich said. "The federal government will claim as it always has that medical cannabis is not recognized under the federal law, but it is legal for patients under state law, so we have not changed the state versus federal conflict here."Raich charged that it was irresponsible for Congress to ignore medical evidence and prohibit seriously ill patients from using cannabis under federal law, and that other courts could consider the due process and medical necessity arguments. The justices agreed that the issue must now be taken up by Congress. "But perhaps even more important than these legal avenues is the democratic process, in which the voices of voters allied with these respondents may one day be heard in the halls of Congress," wrote Justice John Paul Stevens in the last paragraph of his majority opinion.Angel Raich, who says she would die without cannabis to ease her numerous medical conditions, said she will soon undergo surgery to treat an early stage of cervical cancer and must continue to use medical cannabis because she cannot tolerate other painkillers. She says she even considered leaving the country, but her two children ultimately encouraged her to stay and keep fighting for the rights of cannabis patients."I don't like using cannabis; I use it because I have to to stay alive. I promised my kids I would be here for them," said Raich. "I would like to follow the law but I can't because the law is unjust. I will continue to fight if it takes the last breath in my body."Raich says she will travel to Washington D.C. later this month to urge Congress to pass an amendment to an appropriations bill that bars the Drug Enforcement Administration from using its funds to raid and arrest medical cannabis patients. The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on the Hinchey-Rohrabacher medical marijuana amendment next week.Raich noted that she lobbied members of Congress earlier this year with talk show host Montel Williams, who uses medical cannabis to ease the symptoms of his multiple sclerosis. But Raich says many members of Congress would not meet with her and that people in positions of power must get more involved in pressuring Congress to reform marijuana laws. "I am here to talk on behalf of constituents and they are not taking my calls," Raich said. "Why? I want to know."California State Attorney General Bill Lockyer, who supports medical cannabis, submitted an amicus brief supporting the Raich case as did a number of other states. "Today's ruling does not overturn California law permitting the use of medical marijuana," said Lockyer in a statement. "Although I am disappointed in the outcome of today's decision, legitimate medical marijuana patients in California must know that state and federal laws are no different today than they were yesterday."The arguments in the case were crafted to appeal to federalist Supreme Court justices with a history of upholding states rights. The swing justices were Anthony Kennedy and Antonin Scalia, who had ruled for states rights in past decisions regarding guns in school zones and violence against women. But in the Raich case they broke with their conservative colleagues to uphold the powers of the federal government."Diane Monson and Angel Raich use marijuana that has never been bought or sold, that has never crossed state lines, and that has no demonstrable effect on the national market for marijuana," wrote Clarence Thomas in his dissenting opinion. "If Congress can regulate this under the Commerce Clause, then it can regulate virtually anything -- and the federal government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers."Thomas was joined in dissent by Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Sandra Day O'Connor.Some activists are concerned that the ruling will encourage federal authorities to arrest medical cannabis patients and the growers and dispensaries that provide their marijuana. The DEA has maintained throughout the Raich case that all marijuana use is illegal and that the agency has an obligation to uphold the law."Marijuana is not medicine," said DEA spokesperson Richard Meyer, who declined to say whether federal authorities are planning to target the medical cannabis community.State law enforcement authorities in some California municipalities have voiced concern that doctors are interpreting the state law too broadly and giving medical cannabis recommendations to those who don't need it. But Steve Fox, director of government relations for the Washington D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project, notes different states apply different standards for qualifying as a medical cannabis patient. He adds that recently recalled pharmaceutical painkillers such as Vioxx have proven to be much more harmful than cannabis.In addition to its potential for sparking new federal prosecution, the Raich decision will impact over 30 pending federal medical cannabis cases, including that of the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative (OCBC) where Raich used to purchase her medical cannabis. The OCBC lost its case in the Supreme Court on a medical necessity argument and has been barred from distributing medical cannabis pending a lower court decision. "I didn't expect to win in court -- this is not a legal problem, this is a political problem," said OCBC director Jeff Jones.Jones believes the federal government may well see the decision as a greenlight to prosecute patients, growers and dispensary owners. But he believes those criminal trials and the controversy they generate will ultimately shift the politics of medical cannabis. "It will be painful for the people involved, but it will help change these laws," Jones said. "Bring it on." Ann Harrison is a freelance reporter working in the Bay Area.Source: AlterNet (US)Author: Ann Harrison, AlterNetPublished: June 7, 2005Copyright: 2005 Independent Media InstituteContact: letters Website: Articles & Web Site:Angel Raich v. Ashcroft News of Marijuana Verdict Patients Remain Defiant Court Rules Against Pot for Sick People
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Comment #8 posted by Critto on June 08, 2005 at 09:21:42 PT:
US SC gone insane
What should I say? It shows us, that the US Supreme Court is the instutition gone insane; institution, that has TOO MUCH authority over your country's judicary. 
Forget about federalism and the state rights. From now, SC is their new enemy. And unless you will combat this decision by all legal means possible (eg. lobbying), it will lead to further erosion of your legal system.It's time to elect LIBERTARIANS ( to the office NOW!!! They would change the thigns dramatically, abolishing the drug laws and federal trampling over the state rights altogether. As there was the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine, you need the similiar revolution: American Revolution II, this time a non-violent one, without the use of arms and force. May God have mercy for you all. I'm really with all pro-freedom Americans. And I HATE what USA is becoming now.Saddened,
Liberter -- libertaryzm -- my libertarian pages -- (PL/EN)
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Comment #7 posted by FoM on June 07, 2005 at 18:15:28 PT
News Article from The Albuquerque Tribune
Activist To Push Medical MarijuanaCourt ruling won't affect legislative efforts.By Kate Nash, Tribune ReporterJune 7, 2005SANTA FE - Reena Szczepanski says she won't let the U.S. Supreme Court get in her way when she lobbies state legislators to legalize medicinal marijuana next year. The nation's high court Monday ruled the federal government can prosecute people whose doctors have recommended they use medical marijuana to help alleviate their illnesses, regardless of state laws that allow it. But Szczepanski said the ruling wasn't on the merits of medical marijuana use and basically leaves matters the way they have been. The justices did not strike down state laws but affirmed the authority of federal law officers to enforce federal law. "Unfortunately, what's kind of in play out there is that this annuls state laws. . . . That's very far from the truth. We're in the same situation we were before," she said this morning. Szczepanski and members of the Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico unsuccessfully pushed for a state law this year to allow seriously ill and registered patients to have access to regulated amounts of medical marijuana. And while the 2006 session is primarily to be about budget matters, Szczepanski said, her understanding is Gov. Bill Richardson will put the topic on his call, allowing lawmakers to consider it in the 30-day session. Richardson during the session said he supports a "sensible, compassionate plan that makes medical marijuana available to patients suffering from life-threatening disease." Complete Article:,2564,ALBQ_19858_3836879,00.html
Angel Raich Vs. John Ashcroft 
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Comment #6 posted by FoM on June 07, 2005 at 18:12:27 PT
News Article from The Berkeley Daily Planet
Supreme Court Rules Against Protection for Medical Pot By Matthew ArtzJune 7, 2005In a setback for medical marijuana users, on Monday the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against a seriously ill Oakland woman seeking to grow and use marijuana without fear of federal raids.The 6-3 ruling held that federal authorities may prosecute people who have a doctor’s permission to grow and consume marijuana. The court found that state laws legalizing medical marijuana, such as California’s, do not offer protection to users from the federal ban on the drug. The ruling does not overturn California’s Compassionate Use Act of 1996, which legalized medical marijuana in the state. It does, however, uphold the conflict between state and federal law that leaves Californians under the threat of arrest under federal law when they grow or use marijuana as a medicine. “I’m a little bit stunned with the decision,” said Angel Raich, 39, of Oakland, who along with Diane Monson of Oroville took the case to the high court. “People aren’t going to stop using their medicine just because the Supreme Court ruled against them.”In 2002, DEA agents seized and destroyed Monson’s six marijuana plants.Raich, who suffers from an inoperable brain tumor, has chronic pain and a wasting syndrome that requires her to eat up to 3,000 calories a day. She grows her own marijuana, which she said relieves her pain and enables her to eat.While the ruling only directly applies to the small number of residents who grow and consume their own medical marijuana, it could have ramifications for medical marijuana dispensaries, where most licensed patients in the state receive their marijuana. The dispensaries, which are not specifically mentioned in the state law, have historically been subject to raids from the federal Drug Enforcement Agency.Don Duncan, who runs one of Berkeley’s three licensed dispensaries, said the DEA had ceased raiding collectives in the past year while the Raich case was being litigated in the courts. He feared the agency might now feel emboldened by the ruling.Complete Article:
Angel Raich Vs. John Ashcroft 
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Comment #5 posted by FoM on June 07, 2005 at 18:08:09 PT
News Article from Mercury News
 Alameda Supervisors Approve Pot Club Law, Allowing 3 in CountyBy Guy Ashley, Contra Costa TimesJune 7, 2005OAKLAND - Alameda County supervisors today approved a law to license medical marijuana dispensaries, a move that will in effect reduce the number of operations doing business in unincorporated areas of the county from the current seven to three.The move sets up a kind of competition over the next six months among existing pot clubs who will vie for the three permits to be issued by the county. The law, passed by a 4-0 vote with Supervisor Keith Carson absent, will require operations without a permit to shut down.It also puts the fate of clubs seeking to stay in business largely in the hands of Alameda County Sheriff Charles Plummer, whose office will field applications and review the applicants' proposed security measures as well as their criminal backgrounds and those of the dispensary staff.
 Complete Article:
Angel Raich Vs. John Ashcroft News
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on June 07, 2005 at 18:04:06 PT
News Article from 
Marijuana Clubs in San Francisco Unfazed by High Court's Ruling June 7 (Bloomberg) -- Mike Barnes put his mouth on the end of a plastic bag full of marijuana vapors and inhaled deeply. It's a ritual he practices every day to combat chronic back pain from an Army injury. ``I'm always in pain,'' said the 35-year-old Californian, one of several medical marijuana users who stopped by the Compassion and Care Center, a San Francisco pot club, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled yesterday that patients such as Barnes are violating federal drug laws. ``My health is more important than someone telling me it's not good for me, that someone being the federal government,'' Barnes said. Federal law enforcement officials in San Francisco said they don't intend to crack down on medical pot users, who under California state law are allowed to buy and smoke marijuana with a doctor's permission. About 40 marijuana clubs in the city, which operate without interference from local police, are likely to continue in the wake of the Supreme Court decision that federal drug laws ban use of medical pot. Complete Article: 
Angel Raich v. Ashcroft News
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Comment #3 posted by FoM on June 07, 2005 at 14:17:23 PT
DPA: Live Chat With Robert and Angel Raich
Join Angel and her husband Robert Raich, along with the Alliance's Executive Director Ethan Nadelmann for a live web chat to get Angel's firsthand reaction to the ruling.WHEN: Wednesday, June 8, at 5 PM EDT / 2 PM PDT WHERE: email mailto:questions before June 8 to submit questions, and don't forget to bookmark the chat address!
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Comment #2 posted by schmeff on June 07, 2005 at 13:55:40 PT
Can GW Pharma Sue the DEA?
"Marijuana is not medicine," said DEA spokesperson Richard Meyer, who declined to say whether federal authorities are planning to target the medical cannabis community.GW Pharmaceuticals might beg to differ, since Canada has specifically agreed that their cannabis tincture, Sativex, IS medicine. Last time I checked, Canada was part of North America. Can't GW sue the DEA under some NAFTA rules regarding restraint of trade?
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on June 07, 2005 at 13:42:51 PT
NPR: Morning Edition
High Court Allows Prosecution of Medical Marijuana UseBy Nina Totenberg Morning Edition, June 6, 2005 · The U.S. Supreme Court rules that federal authorities may prosecute people who use marijuana on doctor's orders. In a 6-to-3 decision, the court found that federal laws prohibiting marijuana use trump state laws that legalize the drug's medical use.
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