Pubdate: Tue, 07 Jun 2005
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2005 The Vancouver Sun
Author: Sheldon Alberts, CanWest News Service and Darah Hansen, with files 
from Amy O'Brian
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


Supreme Court Rules That Federal Law Supersedes State Legislation
Allowing Medical Use

WASHINGTON -- Americans who smoke marijuana for medical purposes --
even with a prescription from their doctor -- will risk federal
prosecution following a ruling Monday by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The decision was a major victory for the White House and a setback to
the legalized marijuana movement in the U.S., which had succeeded in
convincing 10 states to allow the drug to be used by patients
suffering from chronic or severe pain.

The case underscores the growing gap between Canada's marijuana laws
and those in the United States.

Canada is five years into its federally sanctioned medical marijuana
program, with more than 800 citizens legally entitled to smoke the
drug for health reasons. The court system has also shown increased
leniency toward medical marijuana users, growers and suppliers who can
prove their connection with the drug is compassionate rather than commercial.

By contrast, the Bush administration has taken a no-tolerance attitude
toward the drug and is pressing U.S. high schools to begin random
testing for the drug in students.

Canada's attitude toward marijuana has prompted several Americans to
seek refugee status north of the border. In B.C., Steven Kubby, Steve
Tuck, and Kenneth Hayes have all made refugee claims relating to their
use of medical marijuana.

Melissa Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Immigration and Refugee Board,
said she would not be surprised to see a cluster of new refugee claims
from the United States stemming from Monday's court decision.

Anderson said the ruling could also change refugee evidence
proceedings because of what is called an "in-flight alternative." If
there is a part of a country from which claimants are fleeing where
they could escape persecution -- such as a state that allows the use
of medical marijuana -- it weakens their refugee claim, Anderson said.

However, Philippe Lucas, with the Vancouver Island Compassion Club,
said American medical marijuana users are more likely to take a
wait-and-see attitude.

"We'll have to see how the federal government of the U.S. takes this
decision," Lucas said. "If they take this as a licence to go in and
start busting medical marijuana dispensaries in the 10 states that
have passed medical marijuana laws then, yes, I think we will see more
of an influx of medical-marijuana refugees up here."

According to Lucas, there has been a reluctance lately on the part of
the U.S. federal government to go after medical marijuana users in
states that have legalized medical use of the drug.

But, he added, "I'm just afraid -- and I think that all medical
marijuana users and activists in the U.S. are afraid -- that what's
going to be happening here is a renewed wasting of resources on
attacking sick and suffering Americans."

In a 6-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court found federal laws
prohibiting any form of marijuana use supersede legislation in states
that permit prescription of the drug for "compassionate" purposes.

"If there is any conflict between federal and state law, federal law
shall prevail," Justice Anthony Stevens wrote in the majority opinion.

The court's ruling came after two California women -- Diane Monson and
Angel Raich -- filed a lawsuit after federal agents raided their homes
and seized home-grown marijuana they were prescribed to treat a
variety of illnesses.

Raich says she suffers from an inoperable brain tumour,
life-threatening wasting syndrome and seizures. Monson suffers severe
back pain.

"I'm going to have to prepare to be arrested," Monson said following
the decision. 
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