Pubdate: Thu, 15 Mar 2007
Source: Alpena News, The (MI)
Copyright: 2007 The Alpena News
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Angel Raich)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- A woman whose doctor says marijuana is the only
medicine keeping her alive can face federal prosecution on drug
charges, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

The ruling was the latest legal defeat for Angel Raich, a mother of
two from Oakland suffering from scoliosis, a brain tumor, chronic
nausea and other ailments who sued the federal government
pre-emptively to avoid being arrested for using the drug. On her
doctor's advice, Raich eats or smokes marijuana every couple of hours
to ease her pain and bolster her appetite.

The latest legal twist once again highlighted the conflict between the
federal government, which declares marijuana an illegal controlled
substance with no medical value, and the 11 states allowing medical
marijuana for patients with a doctor's recommendation.

The Supreme Court ruled against Raich two years ago, saying medical
marijuana users and their suppliers could be prosecuted for breaching
federal drug laws even if they lived in a state such as California
where medical pot is legal.

Because of that ruling, the issue before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals was narrowed to the so-called right to life theory: that the
gravely ill have a right to marijuana to keep them alive when legal
drugs fail.

Raich, 41, began sobbing when she was told of the decision that she
was not immune to prosecution and said she would continue using the

"I'm sure not going to let them kill me," she said. "Oh, my

The three-judge appeals panel said that the United States has not yet
reached the point where "the right to use medical marijuana is
'fundamental' and 'implicit in the concept of ordered liberty."'

However, the court left open the possibility that Raich, if she was
arrested and prosecuted, might be able to argue that she possessed
marijuana as a last resort to stay alive, in what is known as a
"medical necessity defense."

"I have to get myself busted in order to try to save my life," Raich

One of her physicians, Frank Lucido, said in an interview last year
that Raich would "probably be dead without marijuana." Lucido, of
Berkeley, was not immediately available for comment Wednesday.

Leaders in the medical marijuana movement said they would continue

"This is literally a matter of life and death for Angel and thousands
of other patients, and we will keep fighting on both the legal and
political fronts until every patient is safe," said Rob Kampia,
executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project.

New Mexico is poised to become the 12th state to allow medical
marijuana under a bill lawmakers approved Wednesday. Gov. Bill
Richardson, a strong supporter of the measure, is expected to sign it.
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