Skip to comments.Court Rules Against Pot for Sick People
Posted on 06/06/2005 8:58:28 AM PDT by Tumbleweed_Connection
Federal authorities may prosecute sick people whose doctors prescribe marijuana to ease pain, the Supreme Court ruled Monday, concluding that state laws don't protect users from a federal ban on the drug.
The decision is a stinging defeat for marijuana advocates who had successfully pushed 10 states to allow the drug's use to treat various illnesses.
Justice John Paul Stevens, writing the 6-3 decision, said that Congress could change the law to allow medical use of marijuana.
The closely watched case was an appeal by the Bush administration in a case involving two seriously ill California women who use marijuana. The court said the prosecution of pot users under the federal Controlled Substances Act was constitutional.
"I'm going to have to be prepared to be arrested," said Diane Monson, one of the women involved in the case.
In a dissent, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said that states should be allowed to set their own rules.
Under the Constitution, Congress may pass laws regulating a state's economic activity so long as it involves "interstate commerce" that crosses state borders. The California marijuana in question was homegrown, distributed to patients without charge and without crossing state lines.
"Our national medical system relies on proven scientific research, not popular opinion. To date, science and research have not determined that smoking marijuana is safe or effective," John Walters, director of National Drug Control Policy, said Monday.
Stevens said there are other legal options for patients, "but perhaps even more important than these legal avenues is the democratic process, in which the voices of voters allied with these (California women) may one day be heard in the halls of Congress."
California's medical marijuana law, passed by voters in 1996, allows people to grow, smoke or obtain marijuana for medical needs with a doctor's recommendation. Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington state have laws similar to California.
In those states, doctors generally can give written or oral recommendations on marijuana to patients with cancer, HIV and other serious illnesses.
"The states' core police powers have always included authority to define criminal law and to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their citizens," said O'Connor, who was joined in her dissent by two other states' rights advocates: Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justice Clarence Thomas.
The legal question presented a dilemma for the court's conservatives, who have pushed to broaden states' rights in recent years. They earlier invalidated federal laws dealing with gun possession near schools and violence against women on the grounds the activity was too local to justify federal intrusion.
O'Connor said she would have opposed California's medical marijuana law if she were a voter or a legislator. But she said the court was overreaching to endorse "making it a federal crime to grow small amounts of marijuana in one's own home for one's own medicinal use."
Alan Hopper, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney, said that local and state officers handle 99 percent of marijuana prosecutions and must still follow any state laws that protect patients. "This is probably not going to change a lot for individual medical marijuana patients," he said.
The case concerned two Californians, Monson and Angel Raich. The two had sued then-U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, asking for a court order letting them smoke, grow or obtain marijuana without fear of arrest, home raids or other intrusion by federal authorities.
Raich, an Oakland woman suffering from ailments including scoliosis, a brain tumor, chronic nausea, fatigue and pain, smokes marijuana every few hours. She said she was partly paralyzed until she started smoking pot. Monson, an accountant who lives near Oroville, Calif., has degenerative spine disease and grows her own marijuana plants in her backyard.
In the court's main decision, Stevens raised concerns about abuse of marijuana laws. "Our cases have taught us that there are some unscrupulous physicians who overprescribe when it is sufficiently profitable to do so," he said.
The case is Gonzales v. Raich, 03-1454.
This whole business of making marijuana illegal is idiotic. Anyone who wants it can get it. It is grown everywhere for free. Doctors are already prescribing it for use.
Kind of reminds me of prohibition.
Absolutely true. To have ruled otherwise would be an example of the Court making (altering) federal law.
Also, the headline is great. Court opposes giving medicine to sick people. Those meanies!!
Why can't their doctors just prescribe THC pills or some sort of facsimile? From what I've heard, the potency of this medical marijuana is pretty low anyway.
It's just paper pulp under our laws.
Opinion of the Court: Stevens, Scalia, Ginsburg, Breyer, Souter, Kennedy
Dissent: O'Connor, Rehnquist, Thomas
If government taxed its own stupidity, it would be self-funding in perpetuity.
That's my question. Why is it that the "legalize pot" types never seem to be interested in a pill form? I understand that, in some cancers, the nauseau is so bad that they can't keep anything down, but in that case it should be in injectable form.
My sister was given cocaine before a surgery back in the '80s to constrict the membranes in her nose so they could put a tube in. In a controlled situation, prescribed and administered by doctors and nurses, I don't really care if they use THC. I *do* care if some beavis is just growing ganga in his backyard - same as I'd care if my sister had just gone out and taken a hit of blow before surgery.
Because when a sick person can grow their own it is cheap and plentiful. When the drug companies make their weak pills, it will cost $100 a pill.
I'm with on this one. If you're sick get a prescription.
You know, I could almost care less if pot were legalized.
Only morons smoke it anyway. Red eyes with the munchies and far out wisdom does not result in success as a general rule, unless you're some dealer. Smoke on dudes!
That's what insurance is for.
Because swallowing a horse pill when you are suffering from nausea isn't as much fun as it's cracked up to be, and because patients have fine control over the how much unprocessed marijuana they ingest, compared to being codwhalloped by enough cannanoid to choke a horse. As to "facsimile", why not dig up some testimony from someone this "medicine" has been fobbed off on? This drug was frogmarched thru the FDA tests at the behest of the DEA--it would never have been allowed on the market otherwise, it isn't spectacularly effective, and it is unduly dangerous compared to what it can accompish. It exists because the DEA refused to follow its own rules and reschedule marijuana as its own Judge-Advocate Young instructed it following a year of intensive judicial review of the scientifically verifiable effects of marijuana.
Are you not fascinated by the logic behind unprocessed marijuana (whose physiological effects have never been known to kill anyone) being a schedule 1 drug, of no possible redeeming medical value, whereas marinol (which actually does kill patients) can be had by prescription?
This whole business of the Feds controlling marijuana is idiotic. Can anyone tell me how, for example, someone growing pot in Santa Cruz, California for use (or sale) in Santa Cruz, California is a concern for the Federal government. To see the idiocy, forget that it's marijuna and pretend it's strawberries.
Oh, I remember why my analogy doesn't work. We don't need to protect our white women from negro jazz musicians hopped up on strawberries.
Here in Oregon, which is a fairly typical state, virtually all indigent patients who die of cancer, under circumstances where records of any sort are kept, do so without the aid of any painkiller of any sort. You must be so incredibly proud of your ability to withhold cheap street drugs from these awful malfactors.
Huh, and yet the drug warriors would have you believe that the newest marijuana is so genetically enhanced it can stun a charging buffalo.
When you smoke or ingest marijuana, you have fine control over your dosage, so it doesn't in the least matter how strong or weak marijuana is. You also are ingesting a large spectrum of cannabanoids, vs. the one most aggressive and unpleasant cannabanoid that anyone was willing to pay the billion bucks to push through the FDA.
As opposed to all those geniuses who get drunk and stupid on alcohol!
If docs can prescribe Oxycontin for pain, why not pot? Which would be a preferable long term addiction to have? The physical addiction of Oxycontin, or the psychological addiction of marijuana? I'd rather be addicted to pot, thank you. And if some poor lady with cancer, or some guy with advanced glaucoma has to stay pleasantly stoned the bejesus to relieve him/herself of pain, who cares?
why do you folks have such problems understanding that if one is puking...swallowing a pill does very little good. Try swallowing a pill (and keep it down) next time you are sick.
That's how it ended for booze.
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