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U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Anti-Marijuana Case

 
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2003 4:31 pm    Post subject: U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Anti-Marijuana Case Reply with quote

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U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Anti-Marijuana Case

WASHINGTON ( AP ) -- The Supreme Court rejected an appeal that jeopardized state medical marijuana laws that allow ill patients to smoke pot if they get a doctor's recommendation.

Justices turned down the Bush administration's request to consider whether the federal government can punish doctors for recommending or perhaps even talking about the benefits of the drug to sick patients. An appeals court said they cannot.

Nine states have laws legalizing marijuana for patients with physician recommendations or prescriptions: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, and 35 states have passed legislation recognizing marijuana's medicinal value. But federal law bans the use of pot under any circumstances.

The case gave the court an opportunity to review its second medical marijuana case in two years. The last one involved cannabis clubs.

This one presented a more difficult issue, pitting free-speech rights of doctors against government power to keep physicians from encouraging illegal drug use. A ruling for the administration would have made the state medical marijuana laws unusable.

Some California doctors and patients, in filings at the Supreme Court, compared doctor information on pot to physicians' advice on "red wine to reduce the risk of heart disease, Vitamin C, acupuncture, or chicken soup."

The administration, which has taken a hard stand against the state laws, argued that public heath -- not the First Amendment free-speech rights of doctors or patients -- was at stake.

"The provision of medical advice -- whether it be that the patient take aspirin or vitamin C, lose or gain weight, exercise or rest, smoke or refrain from smoking marijuana -- is not pure speech. It is the conduct of the practice of medicine. As such, it is subject to reasonable regulation," Solicitor General Theodore Olson said in court papers.

Some people had expected the Supreme Court to step into the case, which comes from California, the battleground over the subject.

Keith Vines, a prosecutor in San Francisco who used marijuana to overcome HIV-related illnesses, was among those who challenged a policy, put in place during the Clinton administration. That policy requires the revocation of federal prescription licenses of doctors who recommend marijuana.

"If the government is zipping them up, and we're not being told about options, that's negligence," Vines said.

Policy supporters contend that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration must be allowed to protect the public.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that physicians should be able to speak candidly with patients without fear of government sanctions, but they can be punished if they actually help patients obtain the drug.

Doctors fear losing their prescription-writing powers, which would put them out of business.

"It's taking the culture war issue of the moment and using it in a way that could undermine the First Amendment, medical profession, and patients' well-being," said Graham Boyd, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney representing patients, doctors, and other groups.

Associated Press (Wire)
10-14-03


Here's a seperate article by the ACLU:

Quote:
Supreme Court Lets Stand Ruling Protecting Doctors and Patients From Government Censorship.

NEW YORK -- The American Civil Liberties Union today welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision to let stand a federal court of appeals ruling that allows doctors to discuss and recommend medical marijuana to patients. Today’s announcement effectively upholds the medical marijuana provisions of seven states within the Ninth Circuit, where the original ruling was made.

“The Supreme Court’s action today protects doctors and patients from government censorship of open and honest discussions in the exam room,” said Graham Boyd, Director of the ACLU’s Drug Policy Litigation Project, who argued the ruling in the Ninth Circuit. “Patients deserve access to accurate information about all possible medicines from their doctors, including medical marijuana.”

Boyd and others represent 15 doctors and patients in California who have suffered as a result of the federal government’s threats to doctors regarding the discussion of marijuana as medicine. In the decision upheld by the Supreme Court, Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Mary Schroeder stated that the government’s attempt to bar doctors from recommending medical marijuana strikes at “core First Amendment interests of doctors and patients” to speak frankly and openly.

The case arose after California voters passed Proposition 215 in November 1996, making it legal for patients to grow and possess marijuana for medical use when a doctor recommends it. The Clinton administration reacted by threatening to revoke the licenses of physicians who recommended medical use of marijuana. The Bush Administration continued that policy.

Dr. Marcus Conant, lead plaintiff in this case and AIDS specialist, said today’s announcement “means that I can do my job again and have real conversations with my patients about medical marijuana as part of their treatment options.”

Another plaintiff, Judith Cushner, a breast cancer survivor, said, “It’s good to know that the federal government can’t gag my doctors anymore and that I can get straight answers from them about every aspect of my medical care.”

Since the case was first filed in 1997, nine states have approved medical marijuana ballot initiatives or laws (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington) and others are considering measures.

The case is Walters v. Conant No. 03-40 (formerly Conant v. McCaffrey).

The ACLU’s legal brief and other case information is online at http://www.aclu.org/court/court.cfm?ID=13872&c=261

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2003 5:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

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