Supreme Court Bars Medical Marijuana in ‘Major Defeat’ for Advocates
In a "major defeat" for medical marijuana advocates, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled this morning that the Controlled Substances Act, which classifies the drug as illegal, contains no exception for sick individuals, the AP/Washington Post reports. Writing for the court, Justice Clarence Thomas said, "In the case of the Controlled Substances Act, the statute reflects a determination that marijuana has no medical benefits worthy of an exception (outside the confines of a government-approved research project)." Justice Stephen Breyer did not participate in the 8-0 decision, as his brother, a federal judge, presided over a lower court ruling in the case (Margasak, AP/Washington Post, 5/14). The events leading up to the case of U.S. v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative began in 1996, when California voters approved a ballot initiative legalizing medical marijuana and allowing "cannabis clubs" to distribute the drug. The federal government then sought an injunction against the clubs, arguing that their actions were a "blatant violation of the Controlled Substances Act," under which marijuana is classified as having "no currently accepted medical use." A district court judge initially sided with the government and granted the injunction, but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision, holding that "medical necessity" exempted seriously ill patients from the federal drug law. The government then appealed to the Supreme Court, which last August issued an "emergency order" to block the distribution of marijuana by the clubs. The court heard oral arguments in March (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/29). To read the full text of the opinion, click here.This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.