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Medical Marijuana: Federal Appeals Court Rules Angel Raich Can Be Prosecuted, Even If Only Marijuana Keeps Her Alive

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #477)
Drug War Issues
Politics & Advocacy

The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday ruled that Angel Raich, an Oakland woman whose doctor says marijuana is keeping her alive, can still be prosecuted on federal drug charges. Raich and her attorneys had argued that the desperately ill have the right to use marijuana to keep themselves alive when all other drugs fail.

Angel Raich, May 2005
Raich is the woman who went all the way to the Supreme Court seeking protection for medical marijuana patients in states where it is legal. But she lost in a 2005 decision when the court held that patients and their providers could indeed be prosecuted under federal law even if their states had legalized it.

Raich suffers from a brain tumor, scoliosis, chronic nausea, and a number of other medical conditions. She uses marijuana every couple of hours to gain appetite and suppress pain on her doctor's recommendation.

The ruling does not mean Raich will be prosecuted. She filed the lawsuit preemptively, in an effort to avoid any possible future arrest. Because Raich's doctors believe medical marijuana is essential to her survival, she argued that for the government to deprive her of her medicine would violate the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution, which states that no person may be "deprived of life... without due process of law."

But in its opinion this week the three-judge appeals court panel ruled that the United States is not yet at the point where "the right to use medical marijuana is 'fundamental' and 'implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.'" The court did suggest, however, that if Raich were ever arrested, she could seek to mount a "medical necessity" defense.

"The court has just sentenced me to death," Angel Raich said in a written statement. "My doctors agree that medical cannabis is essential to my very survival, and the government did not even contest the medical evidence. Every American should be frightened by this ruling. If we don't have a right to live, what do we have left?"

"Today's decision marks a disappointing setback for rational medical policy as well as fundamental constitutional rights in America," said Robert Raich, attorney for the plaintiff. "We may ask the Supreme Court to review the case, and may ask the district court to review issues that the Ninth Circuit left unresolved."

"Today's ruling is shocking, but it's not the end of the struggle," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. "Last June, legislation to end the federal government's war on medical marijuana in the 11 states where medical marijuana is legal received a record number of votes in the US House of Representatives, and support has grown this year. This is literally a matter of life and death for Angel and thousands of other patients, and we will keep fighting on both the legal and political fronts until every patient is safe."

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Uzz Baldrin (not verified)

OUTRAGEOUS! This is an exceptionally rare case that should've gone in favor of Angel and others that suffer like her..."All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are, Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness..." The words of Thomas Jefferson are etched in our Declaration of Independence. If he knew of this ruling he'd consider this court crazy.

Fri, 03/16/2007 - 1:04pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Should Angel Raich die frome the lack of her medical needs shouldn't someone with the government be charged with premeditated murder knowing what the results would be in her not getting the needed MM?

Fri, 03/16/2007 - 1:06pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I sincerely doubt that any government official would be charge with premeditated murder. First, someone from the government who got in trouble would have to actually be prosecuted. Secondly, no judge or grand jury would indict a government official for something that the vast majority of our justice system still believes is wrong, despite evidence to the contrary. I agree with the first comment though. It is an absolute travesty that even with a doctor's recommendation does not warrant an individual's right to use marijuana medicinally. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals apparently knows more about Ms. Raich's unique combination of medical conditions than her doctor. Absolutely despicable.

Fri, 03/16/2007 - 2:29pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

You are correct. My point being that those kind loving sub-humans should suffer the same cruel death, but you are right. it will never happen.

Fri, 03/16/2007 - 6:37pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

If Ms. Raich is ever prosecuted for an issue stemming from her medicinal marijuana use, would it not be "vindictive prosecution" as US District Court Judge Charles Breyer said in Ed Rosenthal's case?

Fri, 03/16/2007 - 2:38pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Life, Liberty & Happiness? Are these simple & easy to understand words still relevant? Does the rocky foundation upon which this country was hypocritically built still exist or has it been eroded beyond recognition by seriously flawed christian values... murder, slavery, and the 'end justifies the means mentality', all in the name of an evil, murderous, vindictive, asshole of a supreme being?

Stoical religious leaders, prohibitionists, moral authoritarians, and especially the armed stooges they command are hell-bent on denying us these basic ideals and should be resisted with all force... including deadly force!

As long as you continue to give license to ignorant, dellusional, christian leaders to ruin our lives we will continue to struggle in the courts, the halls of congress, and at the balot box... scratching for 1 victory at a time... depending on the political winds, money, etc...

Remember... you have been labelled a dangerous criminal by your criminal government and will be treated accordingly... no reason you shouldn't consider & treat your gov't and their agents the same way.

Do Not Pitty the Fool(s) that deliberatley stands between you and your pain relief... simply remove them as neccessary... we will all be the better for it... the state sanctioned criminal you stop today is the criminal that can't hurt or torture us tomorrow. Stand in the way of my right to death with dignity and I won't care how undignified your death may be!

Simply put the 'Life, Liberty & Happiness' of these criminals (drug war stooges and their ignorant, dellusional, christian, prohibitionist puppet masters) are not worth my 'Life, Liberty & Happiness'!

Fri, 03/16/2007 - 2:45pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

If one is entitled to live, then one is necessarily entitled to those things needed in order to live. If one is not entitled to what is needed in order to live, then essentially one is not entitled to live. Is the logic flawed?

It is one thing for judges to say Angel cannot have what is needed, but something else to actually have the ruling enforced. If government officials are looking for a fight, they'll stop, or at least attempt to stop, Angel from having what she needs in order to continue living.

Fri, 03/23/2007 - 6:48pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Contrary to what the gangsters on the court said, the right to use the medicine your doctor wants you to use is "fundamental" to the concept orf "ordered liberty" (whatever that means) when your health is at stake. Too bad they didn't learn they would need chemotherapy before they voted.

Sat, 03/17/2007 - 1:18am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

it is wrong that old men, sitting on the bench (women also) can take away the only thing that helps this woman.

may they one day have to walk in her shoes. It is so wrong for them to make her suffer more than she already is.

this has to change, and it won't, unless everyone stands up, and says "this is wrong"

i dont think pot should be given to just anyone, but in her circumstances, it should be given freely, is her life not already difficult enough? is she not already in enough pain?

this ruling is the worst case of injustice that i have ever seen, if i knew how to get pot, and lived near her, i would risk going to jail to get it for her! i just feel so bad for her, that she is suffering so much, and the government doesnt care.

Sat, 03/17/2007 - 11:33am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

If Angel Raich has an inoperable brain tumor she would not have a myspace bragging how "she enjoys being sexy" ( She is a complete and utter phony. I have seen people with brain tumors and they are not her. I know how brutal brain tumors are and she DOES NOT HAVE ONE. She is a liar and fink. She should thank her lucky stars she does not have a brain tumor. Also, the last thing she would give a shit about if she in fact had a brain tumor would be the legalization of marijuana. Inoperable brain tumors do not let you travel to the supreme court, do not let you hold press conferences, do not let you go on news shows. Oh, and her well published hospital pictures are fakes to. I call bullshit on Angel Raich.

Mon, 06/25/2007 - 11:46am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

You're absolutely right. She has been claiming that she's "sick" for so long she gave herself a freakin brain tumor....and surprise, surprise, it's suddently operable! On the governments dime, of course. She has a "wasting disease" all right - she's a waste of a human being and as a medical marajuana proponant, I am embarassed to see her as a crusader. This woman is a complete nut job...and her name is NOT ANGEL - that's just what she's going by now... what a piece of work.

Fri, 11/20/2009 - 4:29pm Permalink
borden (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Who are you anyway?

The last I saw Angel, she was in a wheelchair for the first time, and not sounding as strong as she had in the past. Her condition had definitely progressed.

Are you a doctor and do you know precisely what "inoperable" means? Angel's web site explains that the surgery was considered too risky. But things went in a direction that eventually necessitated it. Conditions evolve, medical technology and techniques evolve. You don't seem interested in any of that. (And who are you anyway?)

I'm going to leave this here long enough for you to read, then I'll delete your ignorance from our web site. We're not going to willingly be a party to false and uninformed attacks.

In my opinion, Angel did a GREAT job moving the issue forward.

David Borden, Executive Director the Drug Reform Coordination Network
Washington, DC

Fri, 11/20/2009 - 5:21pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

How in the fuck do you fake a brain tumor dumb ass. does your stupid ass think the doctors are lying or what.I hate stupid ass fuckers like you that say dumb ass shit that makes no sense.So its a big conspiracy between her, her husband, and the many doctors so the lady can smoke weed?shut the fuck up.look how stupid and ignorant you sound. Its fucker like you that made the ruling.dumb uneducated( to weed). Stop believing in all the bull shit they tried to scare you with growing up because like we all know(we that are educated and experienced with marijuana) It was all racist propaganda. so if you want to go on being a puppet for those southern red neck and upscale politicians war on minority's so be it, but don't come out of your face and disrespect a dying woman because some dare officer in 3rd grade told you weed was a drug like crack and meth, cuz it is not.If people would stop using the phrase drug in re guards to weed it would be a lot easier for easily influenced people like your self to get over it. but when you say drug people think its bad.I hope when your fucken mama is on her death bed dying the doctor comes in and says to go home and stop faking.stupid ass bitch.

Tue, 02/17/2009 - 10:22am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Look, fuck face, she's been going around with an 'inoperable' brain tumor for over a decade.
What kind of shit is that?
And by the way, it's people like you that will keep pot illegal for many years to come.
Get an education, shit for brains!

Sun, 04/05/2009 - 12:27pm Permalink
William Bowers (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Yep, You're a big pussy hiding behind the anon feature. I bet other than running your mouth while hiding like the Cockbreath you are the only thing that would shut you up would be to shove a few nickels in that slot behind your ear that makes your teeth fold back.


PS: You're a sorry lowlife little sissy and I bet you swallow!




William Bowers

Wed, 03/14/2012 - 7:54pm Permalink

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