Federal Judge Refuses to Block Potential Federal Arrests of California Medical Marijuana Patients 3/14/03

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A federal judge in San Francisco Monday refused to grant a preliminary injunction blocking the US government from prosecuting medical marijuana users in California. The plaintiffs in the case, patients Angel Raich and Diane Monson, sought an order blocking Attorney General John Ashcroft from prosecuting them for growing, smoking, or obtaining medical marijuana.

While US District Judge Martin Jenkins said he was sympathetic to the plaintiffs' plight, he ruled that federal law and the Food and Drug Administration prevented him from issuing the injunction. "Despite the gravity of the plaintiffs' need for medical cannabis, and despite the concrete interest of California to provide it for individuals like them, the court is constraining from granting their request," Jenkins wrote.

The case, Raich v. Ashcroft, was the latest in a number of legal efforts to block the federal government from enforcing its marijuana laws against medical marijuana users and providers in California. California voters in 1996 overwhelmingly approved Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act, but since the Supreme Court ruled last year that the law provided no medical necessity defense, federal officials have raided and prosecuted numerous medical marijuana providers and users.

In a message to supporters Monday, Raich called the ruling "a travesty and a miscarriage of justice" and vowed not to give up. She also vowed to continue to use marijuana as medicine. "I have been asked if I would continue to use medical cannabis after the decision," she wrote. "The answer is yes! I will continue to use my medicine and if the government does not like it they know where I live, and they can come and get me. I will not have my own blood on my hands by stopping using medical cannabis, and I am not going to give up this fight."

Raich's husband, Robert Raich, who handled the medical marijuana case before the Supreme Court last year, told the Associated Press that he would appeal the ruling and that he is "laying the groundwork to go back to the Supreme Court again."

Although the Supreme Court ruled in the Oakland Cannabis Co-op case that there was no medical necessity defense, the decision left open several constitutional questions. In his opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas noted that while the court rejected the medical necessity defense, it did not address important constitutional issues, including Congress' ability to regulate intrastate commerce, states' rights to experiment with their own laws, and whether US citizens have a right to marijuana for pain relief. The court would not decide those "underlying issues today," Thomas wrote.

Now Angel and Robert Raich and Diane Monson are aiming to give the court another chance.

Visit http://www.toad.com/drugs/angel-v-ashcroft-no-pi.pdf to read Judge Jenkins' ruling online. Visit http://news.findlaw.com/legalnews/documents/index.html#drugs to read the complete pleadings in the case.

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