WASHINGTON - June 28 - The U.S. Supreme Court announced today that it will hear the Bush administration's appeal of an appellate court decision protecting medical marijuana patients from arrest and jail. The case, known as Ashcroft v. Raich, stems from litigation funded by the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) and will be heard by the court during the fall term.
Last December, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals barred the U.S. Department of Justice from raiding, arresting, or prosecuting two California medical marijuana patients and their caregivers. The court held that the federal government had overstepped its constitutional authority in raiding patients whose medical marijuana activities were noncommercial and did not cross state lines. The ruling stated that "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 outside federal jurisdiction. Since then, the ruling has been applied in at least three other cases in the Ninth Circuit states that have medical marijuana laws -- Alaska, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington -- protecting patients and caregivers from arrest.
"While a ruling overturning Raich would not invalidate the protections that patients currently enjoy under state law, it would allow John Ashcroft's Justice Department to resume the federal government's war on patients," said MPP Executive Director Robert Kampia. "A ruling in favor of the federal government would mean that the phrase 'interstate commerce,' as used in the Constitution, has become essentially meaningless.
"For both moral and constitutional reasons, the Supreme Court should uphold the Ninth Circuit's ruling in favor of medical marijuana. Sick and suffering patients should not have to live in fear of armed federal agents breaking down their doors to take away their medicine," said Kampia. "In its appeal, the Justice Department is claiming that two patients and their caregivers who are growing and using medical marijuana within California -- using California seeds, California soil, California water and California equipment -- are somehow engaged in 'interstate commerce.' The Bush administration's assault on the meaning of the 'interstate commerce' clause should be of concern to all conservatives."