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Medicinal Marijuana Supporters Vow to Take Legalization Case to Congress

Medicinal Marijuana Supporters Vow to Take Legalization Case to Congress


Supporters of legalized medicinal marijuana say they will make use of comments from June's Supreme Court ruling to take their fight to Congress. 'The decision highlights the opportunity we have to go to Congress and change these laws,' says attorney Robert Raich, whose wife, Angel Raich, was one of two women whose suit attempted to block enforcement of federal law. The court ruled in a 6'3 decision in June that the federal ban on marijuana trumps state-level laws permitting use of the drug and that federal officials can prosecute anyone who grows, distributes, or uses marijuana in states that legalized the drug to treat the symptoms of chronic illnesses--including HIV disease. Two weeks after the ruling an amendment was introduced in the U.S. House to permit the use of marijuana with a doctor's recommendation. Lawmakers had not acted on the measure at press time. The Supreme Court case focused on Raich and another California woman who were arrested by federal officials for growing and using medicinal marijuana--even though state law permitted them to do so. Attorneys for the women argued that federal officials had no authority to prosecute the women because the drug was not sold or transported across state lines, making it a state-level issue. Previously, in 2001, the high court ruled 8-0 that marijuana use or distribution is never legally permitted in the United States, even for medicinal reasons. However, 10 states--Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington--have enacted laws that permit seriously ill residents to use the drug under advisement of their physicians. But Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the majority in this summer's case, said the federal ban does apply within every state, regardless of whether voters or lawmakers have opted to permit marijuana use. Only Congress, he wrote, can remove that ban. Officials from the Bush administration--which vehemently opposes medicinal marijuana use--praised the court's decision. 'Our national medical system relies on proven scientific research, not popular opinion,' says John Walters, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. 'To date, science and research have not determined that smoking marijuana is safe or effective.' But officials at AIDS Project Los Angeles say there is ample anecdotal evidence from people with HIV, cancer, and other serious ailments that the drug is effective. 'Unfortunately, no one seems to want to address the issue of marijuana's medical efficacy despite reliable reports from patients that it helps alleviate pain and nausea and stimulates appetite in people suffering from chronic wasting,' the agency said in a statement. 'We hope that this'decision does not preclude further research into the remaining questions--dosage, most efficacious'delivery method, etc.--about'the so-called compassionate use of medicinal marijuana.'

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