Pubdate: Tue, 30 Nov 2004
Source: Decatur Daily (AL)
Copyright: 2004 The Decatur Daily
Note: Compiled From Wire Reports
Note: the brief, along with all the other court documents, are archived at
Cited: Raich v. Ashcroft
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Angel Raich)


Alabama Disagrees With California on Marijuana, but Not States' Rights, As 
High Court Takes Up Issue

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court questioned whether state medical
marijuana laws might be abused by people who aren't really sick as it
debated on Monday whether the federal government can prosecute
patients who smoke pot on doctors' orders.

The stakes are high on both the government level - California and 10
other states have passed medical marijuana laws since 1996 - and the
personal. There are also shades of paradox.

Tough-on-crime Alabama, where a third conviction of simple marijuana
possession can carry a life term, joined Louisiana and Mississippi in
filing briefs in the case, arguing that the issue is a matter of
states' rights, and the federal government should not meddle in it.

"We take this stuff seriously, and we happen to believe as a matter of
(drug) policy that the Californians are wrong, and the feds are
right," Kevin C. Newsom, Alabama's solicitor general, told The
Baltimore Sun in a recent interview. "But we're here to articulate the
state's long-term interest - and the state's long-term interest is in
Congress' powers being maintained within appropriate

Alabama filed a friend of the court brief on behalf of two California
women, Angel McClary Raich and Diane Monson, who won a court
injunction last year blocking the federal government from prosecuting
people who use, grow or possess marijuana for medical reasons in
accordance with California's 1996 ballot initiative, the Compassionate
Use Act.

Raich, an Oakland, Calif., mother of two, said she tried dozens of
prescription medicines to ease the pain of a brain tumor and other
illnesses before she turned to marijuana. She and Monson filed a
lawsuit to protect their access to the drug after federal agents
confiscated marijuana plants from Monson's yard.

Their attorney, Randy Barnett of Boston, told the justices that his
clients are law-abiding citizens who need marijuana to survive.
Marijuana may have some negative side effects, he said, but seriously
sick people are willing to take the chance because the drug helps them
more than traditional medicines.

The justices refused three years ago to protect distributors of
medical marijuana from federal anti-drug charges. They are confronting
a more personal issue this time - the power of federal agents to go
after sick people who use homegrown cannabis with their doctors'
permission and their states' approval.

A defeat for the two California women might undermine laws passed by
11 states and discourage other states from approving their own.

A loss for the government, on the other hand, could jeopardize federal
oversight of illegal drugs and raise questions in other areas such as
product safety and environmental activities. A Bush administration
lawyer told the justices they would be encouraging people to use
potentially harmful marijuana if they were to side with the women.

"If they're right, then I think their analysis would extend to
recreational use of marijuana, as well as medical use of marijuana,
and would extend to every state in the nation, not just those states
that made it lawful," said Paul Clement, acting solicitor general.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake