SAN FRANCISCO - California and other states that want to make marijuana
available to sick or dying patients are flouting federal drug laws in much
the same way that Southern states defied national civil rights laws, a
senior Bush administration lawyer said.

California is ground zero in a long tug of war with the federal government
over the medical value of marijuana and the power of state governments and
voters to make exceptions for people who may benefit from the illegal drug.

Five major federal lawsuits involve those who grow, use or recommend
marijuana for medical use in California.

The Bush administration has asked the Supreme Court to settle the latest
fight by agreeing that Washington has the power to revoke medical licenses
of doctors who invoke state laws and recommend pot for their patients.

States cannot choose when to abide by federal law and when not to, Justice
Department lawyer Mark Quinlivan said Saturday.

"You cannot cherry-pick," said Quinlivan, the top federal trial lawyer in
three of the pending cases and a panelist at an American Bar Association
discussion of medical marijuana.

California voters passed Proposition 215 in 1996, legalizing marijuana for
medical use. Eight other states followed suit.

Federal law recognizes no medical purpose for the drug and bans its private
production, sale or use.

"There is a basic question of what power does California have," said lawyer
Gerald Uelman, Quinlivan's opponent in two cases. The federal law
regulating drugs "is not a federal takeover of the medical system" or the
duty of doctors to help the very ill, Uelman said.

Pubdate: Mon, 11 Aug 2003
Source: Daily Democrat (CA)
Copyright: 2003, Daily Democrat