Justice Department Asks Supreme Court To Review Medical Marijuana Case
Justice Department attorneys last week in hopes of allowing federal authorities to revoke the federal prescription licenses of physicians who recommend marijuana to patients asked the Supreme Court to review a medical marijuana case that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco decided in October 2002, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, 7/11). In the appeals court decision, a three-judge panel unanimously voted that the federal government could neither investigate nor revoke the licenses of physicians who recommend marijuana use to ill patients, such as people with AIDS. Chief Judge Mary Schroeder, who wrote the court's opinion, rejected the government's argument that Proposition 215 -- the California state law that allows patients to use marijuana with a doctor's recommendation -- subverts federal illegal drug use prevention efforts. She said that punishing doctors who recommend medical marijuana "effectively prohibited candid discussions between doctors and patients, in violation of the First Amendment" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/30/02). Schroeder also said that the federal policy violated states' traditional authority over the practice of medicine (San Francisco Chronicle, 7/11). However, the court panel maintained that prescribing marijuana, as opposed to recommending it, is illegal (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/30/02). If the Supreme Court accepts the case and reverses the appellate court's decision, "it would make all of the states' marijuana laws a dead letter," Graham Boyd, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer for physicians, patients and AIDS support groups, said (San Francisco Chronicle, 7/11).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.