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Appeals court OKs medical marijuana in some cases

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SAN FRANCISCO - A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that a law outlawing
marijuana may not apply to sick people with a doctor's recommendation in states
that have approved medical marijuana laws.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, ruling 2-1 in a rare late-afternoon
filing, said prosecuting these medical marijuana users under a 1970 federal law
is unconstitutional if the marijuana isn't sold, transported across state lines
or used for non-medicinal purposes.

"The intrastate, noncommercial cultivation, possession and use of marijuana for
personal medical purposes on the advice of a physician is, in fact,
different in
kind from drug trafficking," Judge Harry Pregerson wrote for the majority.

The court added that "this limited use is clearly distinct from the broader
illicit drug market, as well as any broader commercial market for medical
marijuana, insofar as the medical marijuana at issue in this case is not
intended for, nor does it enter, the stream of commerce."

The decision was a blow to the Justice Department, which argued that medical
marijuana laws in nine states were trumped by the Controlled Substances Act,
which outlawed marijuana, heroin and a host of other drugs nationwide.

The case concerned two seriously ill California women who sued Attorney General
John Ashcroft. They asked for a court order letting them smoke, grow or obtain
marijuana without fear of federal prosecution.

The case underscores the conflict between federal law and California's 1996
medical marijuana law, which allows people to grow, smoke or obtain marijuana
for medical needs with a doctor's recommendation.

A U.S. District judge tossed the case in March, saying the Controlled
Act barred him from blocking any potential enforcement action against medical
marijuana patients Angel Raich and Diane Monson. Tuesday's ruling sends the
back to the district judge.

Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington state
have laws similar to California, which has been the focus of federal drug
interdiction efforts. Agents have raided and shut down several medical
growing clubs.

The appeals court, the nation's largest, does not have jurisdiction over
Colorado and Maine.

The case is Raich v. Ashcroft, 03-15481.

Source: Associated Press
Pubdate: December 16, 2003

CRRH note: This case, Raich v. Ashcroft, should ensure that our
non-profit's (The Hemp & Cannabis Foundation's) lawsuit against the DEA and
US Justice Dept. for taking state-licensed medical marijuana patient's
medicine, which had been dismissed by a Eugene, OR federal judge, should go
back to court for trial. This bodes well for all medical marijuana
patients. THCF's lawsuit is Stubblefield v. Ashcroft. For more information
on the Stubblefield case, go: