Supreme Court Asked to Overturn Ban on Medical Marijuana Prosecutions

San Francisco –  The government wants to roll back the decision by a federal appeals court that the prohibition on marijuana is unconstitutional when used to prosecute people who use it medicinally. Tuesday the Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to review the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling in Raich vs. Ashcroft, which found that the federal ban does not apply to those who use cannabis for medical purposes on their doctors' advice, obtain the medicine without buying it, and get it within their state's borders.

  The government contends there should be no medical exceptions to the federal anti-marijuana laws.

“I hope the Supreme Court understands that I’m fighting for my life,” said Angel McClary Raich, the lead plaintiff in the case. “The government doesn’t dispute that I would die without cannabis, but they not only want to keep my medicine from me, they want the right to take me from my children and see me die in prison.”

The December 16, 2003 decision in Raich vs. Ashcroft (Ninth Circuit Case No. 03-15481) was the first time a federal court had found a constitutional limitation to application of the Controlled Substances Act, the federal law that prohibits all use of marijuana. The court ruled that patients who grow their own or receive it free do not affect interstate commerce. Congress’s ability to regulate interstate commerce is the basis for federal drug laws. The December ruling applies to California and the six other states in the Ninth Circuit's jurisdiction that allow medical cannabis use: Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

A U.S. District Judge in San Francisco, the Honorable Martin J. Jenkins, is currently drafting the preliminary injunction the appeals court ordered (District Court Case No. CV 02-04872 MJJ).

The original lawsuit, filed in October 2002, sought an injunction against Attorney General John Ashcroft and the federal government to prohibit the prosecution of two medical cannabis patients – Angel McClary Raich and Diane Monson – and the two anonymous caregivers who provide Mrs. Raich with cannabis.

Angel Raich has used cannabis for six years in her fight with an inoperable brain tumor, wasting syndrome, a seizure disorder and many other serious medical conditions.  According to her doctor, Frank Lucido M.D., she is unable to use other medications and would risk death without cannabis.

In August 2002, federal agents raided the Oroville home of Diane Monson, who uses marijuana to relieve severe chronic back pain and muscle spasms. After a dramatic standoff with local law enforcement who attempted to stop the action, the federal agents seized and destroyed her six cannabis plants.

The State of California, Alameda and Butte counties, and the City of Oakland, as well as the California Medical Association and the California Nurses Association, all filed briefs supporting the injunction. 

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For interviews or more information, contact William Dolphin at (510) 919-1498 or [email protected]. A national coalition of 10,000 patients, doctors and advocates, Americans for Safe Access is the largest organization working solely on medical marijuana.  To learn more about the Raich vs. Ashcroft case, go to