Source: AP Wire, Friday, April 11, 1997 JUDGE BARS PUNISHMENT OF DOCTORS FOR MEDICAL MARIJUANA By BOB EGELKO Associated Press Writer SAN FRANCISCO (AP) A federal judge Friday temporarily barred government action against California doctors who recommend marijuana for their patients, saying federal policy on the issue was too confusing. The ruling doesn't change federal law which deems any marijuana use illegal. But the temporary restraining order was an important firstround victory for supporters of the state's medical marijuana ballot issue. The measure, approved by voters last November, allows patients in California to grow and possess marijuana for medical use at the recommendation of their doctors. The Clinton administration responded by saying doctors who recommend marijuana could lose their federal authority to prescribe medicine, be disqualified from Medicare and Medicaid and face criminal prosecution. Drug czar Barry McCaffrey's office later issued a clarification, saying doctors could discuss marijuana as long as they didn't recommend it. But U.S. District Judge Fern Smith said the distinction between discuss and recommend can be fuzzy, leaving doctors uncertain what they can tell patients. She issued the restraining order in a lawsuit filed in January by four medical marijuana users one of them a San Francisco prosecutor with AIDS and several doctors who treat AIDS and cancer patients. The doctors said they considered marijuana the best treatment for some patients' nausea and other side effects of chemotherapy. "It is time for drug czar Barry McCaffrey and the Clinton administration to end their threats and let Proposition 215 work as the voters intended," Dave Fratello of Americans for Medical Rights said in a statement. Patricia Seitz, chief lawyer for McCaffrey, said the administration hoped to move toward a settlement at a conference Thursday ordered by the judge. In her order, the judge said that doctors have censored their discussions with patients about marijuana because they don't know what they are allowed to say, and that patients felt their "ability to receive open and honest medical advice" was diminished. She also said there was at least a serious question about whether the government's policy violated freedom of speech. Graham Boyd, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said they were not arguing for a doctor's right to prescribe marijuana or to knowingly help a patient to obtain it, only for the right to give appropriate medical advice. The restraining order will be in effect until the judge decides whether to grant a preliminary injunction that would last until the lawsuit goes to trial.