|Subject: The Great Ganga Debate|
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Date Posted: 07:01:15 05/15/01 Tue
Well, the fight for the legalization of marijuana took a blow this week, as the Supreme Court ruled against medical use of the plant. Check this out:
High Court Says No Medical Marijuana Exception Photos
By James Vicini
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In a defeat for the medical marijuana movement, the U.S. Supreme Court (news - web sites) ruled on Monday that California cannabis clubs may not legally distribute marijuana as a ``medical necessity'' for seriously ill patients.
The nation's highest court unanimously refused to carve out a ``medical necessity'' exception from the federal law that prohibits the distribution of marijuana as an illegal drug.
The closely watched case marked a watershed for the U.S. medical marijuana movement, which has been mired in legal battles since California in 1996 approved the nation's first initiative legalizing medicinal use of the drug.
The case pitted the cannabis clubs, which say marijuana should be used to alleviate pain and suffering for illnesses such as AIDS (news - web sites), cancer and glaucoma, against the U.S. government, which had warned against creation of ``marijuana pharmacies.''
Medical marijuana proponents bitterly denounced the ruling, saying the justices showed no compassion for tens of thousands of seriously ill and dying patients.
Attorney General John Ashcroft (news - web sites) described the ruling as a victory for U.S. drug enforcement laws and said it clearly ''reaffirms the federal government's preeminent role in regulating controlled substances.''
Saying the case raised ``significant questions'' about the government's ability to enforce the nation's drug laws, Justice Clarence Thomas (news - web sites) wrote for the court that federal law classified marijuana as a controlled substance.
He said the law only provided one exception -- government-approved research projects.
CONGRESS: NO MARIJUANA MEDICAL BENEFITS
``It is clear from the text of the act that Congress has made a determination that marijuana has no medical benefits worthy of an exception,'' he wrote in the 15-page ruling.
Thomas said a U.S. appeals court had been wrong in ruling that marijuana clubs in California may distribute the drug to those seriously ill patients who prove cannabis was medically necessary.
The California initiative allowed seriously ill patients to use marijuana for pain relief as long as they have a doctor's recommendation. Similar measures have been adopted in a number of other states.
Joining Thomas in the opinion were Chief Justice William Rehnquist (news - web sites) and Justices Sandra Day O'Connor (news - web sites), Antonin Scalia (news - web sites) and Anthony Kennedy (news - web sites). The five make up the court's conservative majority.
Justice John Paul Stevens (news - web sites), joined by the Justices David Souter (news - web sites) and Ruth Bader Ginsburg (news - web sites), issued a separate opinion concurring in the judgement. They are among the court's more moderate-liberal members.
Stevens emphasized the ruling was narrow, only applying to the clubs as distributors of marijuana to their members.
``Most notably, whether the (medical necessity) defense might be available to a seriously ill patient for whom there is no alternative means of avoiding starvation or extraordinary suffering is a difficult issue that is not presented here,'' he said.
Stevens said California voters decided seriously ill patients and their primary caregivers should be exempt from prosecution under state laws for cultivating and possessing marijuana if the patient's doctor recommends it for treatment.
``This case does not call upon the court to deprive all such patients of the benefit of the necessity defense to federal prosecution,'' he said.
Justice Stephen Breyer (news - web sites) did not participate in the ruling. His brother, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco, initially presided over the dispute.
CANADA ALLOWS MEDICAL MARIJUANA
While the U.S. government argued against the use of medical marijuana, Canada last month said it plans to make it easier to possess and cultivate marijuana for medical purposes.
In Los Angeles, Bill Zimmerman, director of a group called Americans for Medical Rights, which sponsored the initiative, said ``tens of thousands of seriously ill Americans are going to be shaken by today's news.''
``It is appalling to see the insensitivity of our government in the face of so much real human suffering,'' he said.
Robert Raich, an attorney for the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative, the club at issue in the ruling, called the decision a ``travesty of justice.''
He compared it to another ``wrongly decided case,'' the Supreme Court's infamous Dred Scott ruling which upheld slavery in the South before the Civil War.
In Washington, Kevin Zeese of the group Common Sense for Drug Policy, predicted the federal government will have trouble enforcing the drug laws before juries. ``The federal government is likely to lose when they try to enforce this decision.''
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