Pubdate: Mon,  1 Oct 2001
Source: ABA Journal (US)
Copyright: 2001 American Bar Association
Author: John Gibeaut
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)
Bookmark: (Oakland Cannabis Court Case)


Speakers Say Supreme Court Ruling Isn't Last Word On Medical Marijuana

The U.S. Supreme Court may have nipped medical marijuana in the bud this
spring, but cannabis supporters already are plowing new ground.

"The people gave us medical marijuana laws," said Gerald F. Uelmen, a Santa
Clara University law professor who unsuccessfully defended California's law
before the Supreme Court.  The state voters approved in 1996 the measure
allowing patients to grow and possess small amounts of marijuana for
personal medical use.

"To me, that says a lot," Uelmen said. It says to me that the politicians
are [lagging] behind the public sentiment that supported this movement,"

Uelmen spoke during the ABA Annual Meeting at a program on recent legal and
legislative developments on prescription pot, sponsored by the Coordinating
Group on Bioethics and the Law.

California's law, which contains no provision for marijuana distribution,
ran afoul of federal authorities after several operations sprang up to
deliver marijuana to patients, most with AIDs or cancer, who were too ill to
grow their own.

The government sought an injunction against one distribution center in
Oakland, claiming it violated the U.S. Controlled Substances Act's ban on
marijuana trafficking.  The distributor argued that medical necessity forced
it to violate the law, only to wind up with a 5-3 Supreme Court decision
that refused to read the defense into the statute.  United States v. Oakland
Cannabis Buyer's Cooperative, 121 S. Ct. 1711 [May 14, 2001]

But the Court left several questions open on remand, including whether a
common-law, or even a constitutional, defense based on necessity would
succeed. "It didn't end the litigation," Ulemen said.

Panelists agreed that in light of congressional hostility toward medical
marijuana, continued state efforts through citizen ballot initiatives are
perhaps the most effective route.  Of nine states that currently allow
marijuana possession and cultivation for medical use, eight legalized it at
the polls.  If enough other states enact such laws, the panelists predicted,
then Congress eventually will feel the pressure and change the federal
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