A federal judge has refused to bar U.S.
Attorney General John Ashcroft and Drug Enforcement Administration chief
Asa Hutchinson from treating medical marijuana patients as criminals.

Patients sued the government officials in October, claiming their civil
rights were violated by federal crackdowns on medical marijuana. The
federal government still deems all marijuana growth, possession or use
illegal, even though California voters approved medical marijuana in
1996. Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Oregon and Washington
have similar laws.

U.S. District Judge Martin Jenkins of San Francisco held a hearing in
December on whether to issue a preliminary injunction preventing the
officials from acting while the case is pending, and issued his denial
last week.

"We will appeal the decision and we hope for a better ruling from the
9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals," said Oakland attorney Robert Raich,
representing the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs are patients Angel McClary Raich of Oakland -- the
attorney's wife -- and Diane Monson of Oroville, plus two "John Doe"
marijuana growers from Oakland who supply Raich.