March 15, 2007
Reefer madness, revisited
Federal appellate judges here ruled Wednesday that a terminally ill woman using marijuana was not immune to federal prosecution simply because of her condition, and in a separate case a federal judge dismissed most of the charges against a prominent advocate for the medicinal use of the drug.
The woman, Angel McClary Raich, says she uses marijuana on doctors’ recommendation to treat an inoperable brain tumor and a battery of other serious ailments. Ms. Raich, 41, asserts that the drug effectively keeps her alive, by stimulating appetite and relieving pain, in a way that prescription drugs do not.
She wept when she heard the decision.
“It’s not every day in this country that someone’s right to life is taken from them,” said Ms. Raich, appearing frail during a news conference in Oakland, where she lives. “Today you are looking at someone who really is walking dead.”
In 2002, she and three other plaintiffs sued the government, seeking relief from federal laws outlawing marijuana. The case made its way to the Supreme Court, and in 2005, the court ruled against Ms. Raich, finding that the federal government had the authority to prohibit and prosecute the possession and use of marijuana for medical purposes. But the justices left elements of Ms. Raich’s case to a lower court to consider.
On Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found that while they sympathized with Ms. Raich’s plight and had seen “uncontroverted evidence” that she needed marijuana to survive, she lacked the legal grounds to exempt herself from federal law.
The court “recognizes the use of marijuana for medical purposes is gaining traction,” the decision read. “But that legal recognition has not yet reached the point where a conclusion can be drawn that the right to use medical marijuana is ‘fundamental.’”
And yet the courts routinely rule that the right to life is exactly that. How odd.
Robert Raich, Ms. Raich’s husband and lawyer, said she might appeal the decision to the full Ninth Circuit.
TrackBack URL for this entry: