WASHINGTON - April 22 - The Bush administration yesterday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse a federal appellate court ruling protecting medical marijuana patients and caregivers from prosecution by the federal government. If the high court agrees to take the case, the safety and well-being of tens of thousands of patients in states that have enacted medical marijuana laws will hang in the balance.
The case, known as Ashcroft v. Raich, was funded in part by the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). Patients Angel McClary Raich and Diane Monson and their caregivers argued that because their medical marijuana activities are completely non-commercial and conducted entirely within California, the Commerce Clause as well as the Fifth, Ninth, and Tenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution give the federal government no right to intervene. In a ruling issued December 16, 2003, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, holding that the "cultivation, possession, and use of marijuana for medicinal purposes and not for exchange or distribution is not properly characterized as commercial or economic activity" -- and is thus not a matter of federal concern.
The case has already had an impact in federal courtrooms within the Ninth Circuit. Also on April 21, U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel issued an injunction protecting the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM) in Santa Cruz from federal attacks, citing Raich as the basis for his ruling.
"We are disappointed, but not surprised, that Attorney General Ashcroft has chosen to ask the Supreme Court for what amounts to a license to attack the sick," said MPP Executive Director Rob Kampia. "This administration has waged a war against medical marijuana patients that is completely unrestrained by science, compassion or sound legal principles. Conservatives should be appalled that the Justice Department is arguing that two patients and their caregivers, growing and using medical marijuana within California -- using California seeds, California soil, California water and California equipment, and engaging in no commercial activity whatsoever -- are somehow engaged in 'interstate commerce.'
"We hope the Supreme Court will let the Ninth Circuit's decision stand," Kampia added, "but seriously ill patients shouldn't have to depend on the courts for protection. Congress can and should end this cruel federal war on the sick immediately."