Appeals Court Should Let Proposition 215 Stand, Grant Californians Access to Medical Marijuana, Editorial Says
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco "should not delay in calling an end to" the federal government's "mean-spirited and unconstitutional" punishment of doctors who recommend medical marijuana for patients with debilitating diseases, a New York Times editorial states. In 1996, California voters passed Proposition 215, which exempts people with serious illnesses, including AIDS, from the state's marijuana laws if they are using the drug at the recommendation of a physician. After the law passed, the federal government threatened to revoke doctors' licenses if they recommended marijuana because it is deemed an illegal substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act. A group of doctors and patients sued to block federal authorities from interfering on the grounds that the federal policy would intrude on the doctor-patient relationship and prevent physicians from "honestly rendering" medical advice. A lower court ruled in favor of the doctors and enjoined federal officials from revoking doctors' licenses, but the government has appealed. The Times states that the government's position that marijuana should be illegal under all circumstances would take away a "legitimate treatment" for people with AIDS and cancer, among other diseases. The federal policy also "clashes with the free-speech protections of the First Amendment" by limiting what a doctor can tell his or her patients, the Times says. "The California appeals court judges have an opportunity to strike an important blow for free speech and honesty in medicine by striking down the medical marijuana gag rule," the Times concludes (New York Times, 5/25).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.