Pubdate: Wed, 28 Mar 2007
Source: Ventura County Star (CA)
Copyright: 2007 The E.W. Scripps Co.
Cited: Angel Raich
Cited: The Institute of Medicine report
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Angel Raich)


Congress Needs to Settle Issue

Eleven years after California voters approved Proposition 215, 
allowing the medicinal use of marijuana, the federal government is 
still asserting its right to prosecute Californians whose doctors say 
they need it.

It is time for Congress to settle this issue, instead of leaving sick 
people vulnerable to federal prosecution.

In fact, two years ago, when the U.S. Supreme Court voted 6-3 that 
state medical marijuana laws do not protect people from federal 
prosecution, Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the majority, 
said the issue belongs before Congress.

He added that the court's decision was based on the technical 
interstate commerce aspect of the case and did not consider the 
medical-necessity defense.

Angel Raich, who lost the 2005 case in the U.S. Supreme Court, took 
the judge's hint and focused on medical necessity when she renewed 
her case with the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Earlier this month, she lost that case, too.

Mrs. Raich, 41, of Oakland, is a mother of two, who suffers from 
numerous chronic conditions, including an inoperable brain tumor and 
seizure disorder. Under her doctor's supervision, she inhales 
marijuana every two hours to assuage her pain.

In his 32-page opinion in Mrs. Raich's federal appeals case, Judge 
Harry Pregerson said that although Mrs. Raich could be prosecuted by 
the federal government for using marijuana, it is unlikely she would 
be convicted.

However, Mrs. Raich has not had a criminal case filed against her, in 
which case, according to Judge C. Arlen Beam, on the appeals court, a 
necessity defense was premature.

Thirty-seven years ago, when President Nixon declared a "national war 
on drugs," marijuana was classified as a Schedule I drug, meaning it 
has no medicinal value and cannot be prescribed.

Since that time, studies have demonstrated marijuana can ease wasting 
in people with AIDS -- a disease that had not even been named in 
1970. A 1999 report from the Institute of Medicine at the prestigious 
National Academy of Sciences concluded marijuana may indeed have 
practical applications for patients undergoing chemotherapy or who 
have AIDS, advanced cancer or muscle spasms associated with multiple sclerosis.

A total of 10 other states besides California have thus far enacted 
medicinal-marijuana laws -- Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, 
Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

However, states' rights seem to hold no sway when it comes to this issue.

It shouldn't take a bevy of Supreme Court and appeals court justices 
to legislate common sense. Marijuana should be a Schedule II drug, 
which doctors prescribe, just as they do other drugs.

Congress must act soon so that legitimately ill people, who abide by 
state medicinal marijuana laws, are not in jeopardy of being 
prosecuted by the federal government. 
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