Bay Area Pot Clubs Lose Possible Final Appeal

December 13, 2007

CBS 5 / Bay City News, KPIX CBS 5 (San Francisco)

Three medical marijuana clubs in Oakland, Fairfax and Ukiah Thursday lost what appeared to be their final appeal in a long-running battle against a federal court injunction barring them from giving marijuana to patients.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld a permanent injunction issued by a federal trial judge in 2002 against the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative, Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana and Ukiah Cannabis Buyer's Club.

The case began in 1998 when the U.S. Justice Department filed a civil lawsuit seeking to stop the three clubs as well as three other now-defunct dispensaries in San Francisco and Santa Cruz from giving marijuana to patients.

A voter-approved California law, the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, allows seriously ill patients to use marijuana with a doctor's approval, but federal laws don't recognize the state law.

The claims decided by the appeals court today were the only arguments left in the case after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected other claims raised by the clubs.

In a key ruling in 2001, the high court said federal law doesn't allow a "medical necessity" exception for distribution of marijuana to seriously ill patients.

In another ruling in 2005 in a lawsuit filed by medical marijuana patient Angel Raich, the high court rejected the argument that locally grown medical marijuana is not part of interstate commerce and thus not subject to federal laws criminalizing the drug.

In Thursday's decision, the appeals court turned down the three clubs' argument that marijuana shouldn't be classified as a Schedule I drug under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act.The category is for drugs that have a high potential for abuse and have no accepted medical use.

A three-judge panel of the appeals court said the classification is constitutional and has a rational basis.

Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative executive director Jeffrey Jones said the club is unlikely to appeal further to the Supreme Court, but said the ruling is "just another bump in the legal road" in the group's bid to help patients needing medical marijuana.

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