WASHINGTON, D.C. -- With the U.S. Supreme Court preparing to hear a case that could sharply limit the federal government's ability to arrest medical marijuana patients whose activities are legal under state law, medical marijuana advocates see their cause moving forward no matter what the court decides.
Ashcroft v. Raich, which will be heard by the high court on November 29, could end federal raids on patients who are obeying state medical marijuana laws. Significantly, the case cannot overturn the laws now protecting the right of 57 million Americans living in Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington to use medical marijuana, officials of the Marijuana Policy Project noted. MPP, whose grants program provided
funding for the litigation, also led the campaigns that passed medical marijuana laws in Vermont and Montana this year.
"The most important thing to know is that this case will not impact the right of states to enact their own medical marijuana laws," said Rob Kampia, executive director of MPP, which is based in Washington, D.C. "If the Supreme Court rules our way, the federal government's war on patients will come to an abrupt end in the 10 states with medical marijuana laws, On the other hand, if the Court rules against us, then we're back to where we started -- patients will be protected from arrest under state law, but not under federal law."
According to annual statistics released by the FBI and the U.S. Sentencing Commission, 99 percent of all marijuana arrests are made by state and local authorities under state law; only 1 percent of marijuana arrests are made by the DEA and other federal authorities under federal law. "Because 99 percent of all marijuana arrests are made under state law and not federal law, we will continue to focus on making medical marijuana legal from state to state, just as we did this year in Montana and Vermont, regardless of what the Supreme Court says about federal law," said Kampia.
In the president's home state of Texas, a Scripps Howard poll released earlier this month showed 75 percent approval for legalizing the medical use of marijuana, with support cutting across all parties and age groups. "Rather than appealing this case to the Supreme Court, the Bush administration should have listened to the American people and dropped the case," said Kampia. "In Montana, a solidly Republican state, the medical marijuana initiative there received more votes than
President Bush on Election Day, just as the first medical marijuana initiative in California received more votes than President Clinton back in 1996."
Legal documents in the case are available at http://angeljustice.org/
With more than 17,000 members and 150,000 e-mail subscribers nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. MPP works to minimize the harm associated with marijuana -- both the consumption of marijuana and the laws that are intended to prohibit such use. MPP believes that the greatest harm associated with marijuana is imprisonment. For more information, please visit MarijuanaPolicy.org.