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U.S. court rules against medicinal pot use

By Hempology | June 7, 2005

WASHINGTON Americans who smoke marijuana for medical purposes even with a prescription from their doctors will risk federal prosecution following a ruling Monday by the U.S. Supreme Court.


The decision was a major victory for the White House and a setback to the legalized marijuana movement in the U.S., which had succeeded in convincing 10 states to allow the drug to be used by patients suffering from chronic or severe pain.
Todays decision marks the end of medical marijuana as a political issue, said John Walters, the White Houses director of national drug control policy.
In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court found federal laws prohibiting any form of marijuana use supercede legislation in states that permit prescription of the drug for compassionate purposes.
If there is any conflict between federal and state law, federal law shall prevail, Justice Anthony Stevens wrote in the majority opinion.
The courts ruling came after two California women Diane Monson and Angel Raich filed a lawsuit after federal agents raided their homes and seized home-grown marijuana they were prescribed to treat a variety of illnesses.
Raich says she suffers from an inoperable brain tumor, life-threatening wasting syndrome and seizures. Monson suffers severe back pain. Im going to have to prepare to be arrested, Monson said following the decision.
The Supreme Court recognized strong arguments that [Monson and Raich] will suffer irreparable harm by the decision, but said it was bound by clarity in the law.
It relied on an obscure 1942 court decision that upheld Congresss commerce power to ban wheat grown for home consumption.Production of the commodity meant for consumption, be it wheat or marijuana, has a substantial effect on supply and demand for the national market for that commodity, Stevens wrote.
Any failure by the federal government to regulate bans on the possession of marijuana would leave a gaping hole in the Controlled Substance Act, he added.
The case underscores the growing gap in marijuana laws between Canada and the United States.
The Bush administration has taken a no-tolerance attitude toward the drug and is pressing U.S. high schools to begin random testing for the drug in students.
The federal government in Canada has allowed the use of marijuana for medical purposes since 2001. Canadians suffering from terminal diseases and specific symptoms of illnesses like AIDS, multiple sclerosis, cancer, arthritis and epilepsy are eligible to use the drug.
The Liberal government is also moving to decriminalize the possession and use of small amounts of marijuana.
The U.S. decision is the second consecutive blow to activists seeking to liberalize American marijuana laws.
The Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that federal agents had the right to close California clinics that provided marijuana to patients. Pro-medical marijuana groups said the courts decision could have a chilling effect on states, like Connecticut, that are considering passing laws permitting marijuana use.
But Dan Abrahamson, director of legal affairs for the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance said states still have the right to pass legislation that protects the rights of patients to use this life-saving medicine.
The federal government can choose not to prosecute cases or it can waste taxpayer dollars by going after sick and dying patients, Abrahamson said.
Its estimated the Supreme Courts decision could affect as many as 100,000 patients in the 10 states where marijuana is allowed for medical purposes.
Many of those patients have been issued state documents identifying them as eligible to smoke marijuana. The special IDs were created so the patients wouldnt be arrested if police discovered marijuana in their possession.
The Drug Policy Alliance expressed concern about whether the information might be obtained by federal agents and used to track down medical marijuana users. But the Supreme Court decision said state and local police arent required to assist federal agents in investigating or prosecuting users.

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