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Court Writes Prescription for Pot Relief

By Hempology | July 22, 2002

From the San Jose Mercury News, July 22, 2002

The California Supreme Court has declared that in this state, marijuana will be treated the same as any drug in the medicine cabinet: If a doctor prescribed it, then it’s legal.

In a unanimous decision, the court last week upheld the right of seriously ill Californians to smoke pot to relieve pain and other symptoms, with a doctor’s approval, under Proposition 215, passed in 1996.

The ruling is important in light of a 2001 U.S. Supreme Court decision that “medical necessity” is no defense against federal drug charges. The state court, by declaring the federal law irrelevant in this case, basically told the feds that they would be on their own if they tried to prosecute sick people who grow or smoke pot in California.

Research has shown that marijuana can greatly improve the lives of people who suffer from cancer, AIDS, epilepsy, glaucoma and other diseases because it relieves pain and stimulates appetite.

Yet unlike morphine, codeine and other powerful pain relievers, pot can’t be dispensed with a prescription under federal law. California and eight other states have legalized medical marijuana use, but the federal government has refused to recognize those laws.

The day before the state court ruling, the Food and Drug Administration approved use of a powerful tranquilizer, gamma hydroxybutyrate or GHB, for treatment of a rare sleeping disorder. GHB was outlawed because it’s been linked to date rapes, at least 58 deaths and 5,700 overdoses in a decade.

Yet because GHB is so effective for sleep disorder patients, the FDA approved its use, imposing strict reporting requirements to keep it out of the wrong hands.

Similar steps could be taken to make marijuana available only to those who need it.

The state court ruling did not settle all questions about Proposition 215. Further decisions or legislation are needed to establish reasonable limits on the amount of marijuana a patient can keep for “personal use.”

But by upholding the substance of the proposition, the court assured thousands of Californians that their right to a proven medical treatment will be protected.

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