Pubdate: Mon, 29 Nov 2004
Source: San Jose Mercury News (CA)
Copyright: 2004 San Jose Mercury News
Author: Jim Puzzanghera, Mercury News Washington Bureau
Note: MAP readers may find the web based comments on the hearing currently 
linked from the home page of interest.
Cited: Raich v. Ashcroft
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Angel Raich)


WASHINGTON - Several U.S. Supreme Court justices reacted skeptically Monday 
to the legal arguments of two chronically ill California women seeking 
immunity from federal prosecution for smoking marijuana because state 
voters have approved its use for medical purposes.

The attorney for Angel Raich, 39, of Oakland and Diane Monson, of Butte 
County, argued that the federal government was violating the federal 
constitution in trying to prevent the two women from using marijuana 
prescribed by doctors, as allowed in California and 10 other states. The 
marijuana the women smoke to lessen severe chronic pain and avoid reactions 
from traditional drugs is grown only for their use and therefore is not an 
interstate commodity that the federal government can regulate, said their 
attorney, Randy Barnett.

But although several members of the court, particularly conservatives, feel 
strongly about preserving the rights of states, they and other justices 
appeared critical of Barnett's arguments that medical marijuana users 
should be immune from federal law that bans the drug as a harmful and 
addictive controlled substance.

Justice Antonin Scalia said it seemed logical that some of the estimated 
100,000 Californians who use medical marijuana would buy it in the illegal 
market, making it an economic commodity that Congress could regulate. And 
Justice Stephen Breyer said people who believe marijuana should be allowed 
for medicinal use -- a point of debate in the medical community -- should 
take their case to the federal Food and Drug Administration first.

"Medicine by regulation is better than medicine by referendum," Breyer said.

The case has ramifications in 10 other states that allow marijuana use for 
medicinal purposes despite a federal ban on the drug.

Paul Clement, who argued the case for the federal government as the acting 
solicitor general, said allowing "any little island of lawful possession" 
of marijuana would undermine the intent of Congress to ban the drug's use.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake