The U.S. Supreme Court will soon issue its ruling in the historic medical
marijuana case, Ashcroft v. Raich. At issue is whether the federal
government has the constitutional authority to prohibit patients in
medical marijuana states from using and/or growing marijuana that is not
commercial in nature, and therefore does not involve interstate commerce.
If the Court does not rule in favor of Angel Raich and Diane Monson - the
appellants in the case - we won't be silent. ... That's where you'll come
in. We need your help lobbying Congress. We need you to tell your U.S.
representative that it's time to end the federal government's attacks on
medical marijuana patients and caregivers.
Please take advantage of this historic opportunity by attending a noontime
demonstration at your U.S. representative's local district office two days
after the decision is announced (exactly 50 hours following the
announcement of the Court's decision). We will send an alert the day of
the decision notifying you that it's time to act.
You won't be alone. A host of medical marijuana reform groups and
activists including NORML, the Marijuana Policy Project, and Americans for
Safe Access are coming together all over the country to tell Congress to
stand up for patients.
The purpose of these demonstrations - aside from drawing attention to the
issue - is to urge members of Congress to vote for the Hinchey-Rohrabacher
amendment to the Science, State, Justice and Commerce Appropriations bill.
If passed, the amendment will bar the DEA from spending any funds to
interfere with state medical marijuana laws.
Please visit http://www.raichaction.org/
to get all the materials you
need. You can use the site to:
-- Find out where your U.S. representative's local district offices are
-- Print flyers to hand out at the demonstration; and
-- Print talking points related to the Hinchey-Rohrabacher medical
If you think you will participate, or, if you want to lead a
demonstration, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
To read a little more about the politics surrounding this landmark case,
we have included an editorial below from NORML's Senior Policy Analyst
P.S. For more information regarding the case of Ashcroft v. Raich, please
High Court Must Take Lead in Medical Marijuana Debate Because Politicians
by Paul Armentano
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments yesterday on whether Angel Raich
and Diane Monson are legally protected medical patients or common
criminals. In the opinions of their physicians and under the laws which
govern their home state, both women are medically authorized users of
marijuana - a substance they use therapeutically to relieve multiple
ailments, including chronic pain, spasms and life-threatening appetite
loss. Under federal law, however, both Ms. Raich and Ms. Monson, as well
as thousands of seriously ill patients like them, are unrepentant
lawbreakers who deserve to be prosecuted and incarcerated for flouting the
government's ban on the use and cultivation of marijuana.
First, some background. In 1996, voters in California chose overwhelmingly
to legalize the physician-supervised use of marijuana. (Nine additional
states have since done likewise.) Shortly thereafter, Ms. Raich and Ms.
Monson, at the behest of their doctors, began using marijuana for
symptomatic relief - a practice each continues to this day.
In 2002, in response to a wave of federal arrests and prosecutions of
state-authorized, California marijuana patients and providers (including
an August 15, 2002 DEA raid on Ms. Monson's own six-plant medical garden),
Ms. Raich and Ms. Monson filed suit in federal court seeking to bar the US
Justice Department from taking legal action against them for their
state-sanctioned use of medicinal cannabis. The pair argued that the
federal prosecution of authorized patients who possess and cultivate
marijuana for their own personal medical use in compliance with state law
was an unconstitutional exercise of Congress' Commerce Clause authority.
In December 2003, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled2-1 in favor of
Ms. Raich and Ms. Monson, finding: "We find the appellants' class of
activities - the intrastate, noncommercial cultivation, possession and use
of marijuana for personal medical purposes on the advice of a physician -
is, in fact, different in kind from drug trafficking. ... Moreover, this
limited use is clearly distinct from the broader illicit drug market ...
insofar as the medicinal marijuana at issue in this case is not intended
for, nor does it enter, the stream of commerce. ... This conclusion,
coupled with the public interest considerations and the burden faced by
the appellants if, contrary to California law, they are denied access to
medicinal marijuana," warrants the court to find in favor of the
appellants' request for injunctive relief from federal prosecution.
The US Justice Department is now asking the Supreme Court to overturn the
9th Circuit's decision.
One of the fundamental questions before the court is whether there exists
a recognizable use of marijuana for medicinal purposes that differs from
the criminal use and trafficking of marijuana as defined by federal law.
Numerous patients, doctors, medical associations (including the American
Nurses Association, the American Public Health Association, and the
prestigious National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine), as well
as 80 percent of the American public say "yes." Federal lawmakers say
"no." It's a legal and public health standoff that the High Court must
It isn't supposed to be this way. Throughout history, the public has
looked to Congress - not the courts - to be the architects of public
policy. Yet, despite decades of mounting scientific evidence in favor of
amending the legal status of medical marijuana (as the governments of the
Netherlands, Canada and Great Britain have recently elected to do),
Congressional lawmakers have chosen to hide their collective heads in the
sand. Their abdication of this issue has left seriously ill patients and
their advocates with few alternatives: take their issue directly to the
voting booth, or take their issue directly to the courts. To date, they
have successfully done both.
It has been argued that neither voters' plebiscites nor judicial activism
makes for sound public policy. In this case, however, Congress has left
America's sick and dying few alternatives. By steadfastly refusing to
enact rational federal reforms, lawmakers have forced voters, and now the
high court, to determine America's federal policy on medical marijuana.
For the health and safety of Ms. Raich and Ms. Monson, and for the
well-being of the thousands of patients like them who presently enjoy
legal protection to use medicinal cannabis under state law, let's hope the
court's nine justices do so with more common sense and compassion than
that of their legislative brethren in Washington.
November 30, 2004
Paul Armentano is the senior policy analyst for the NORML Foundation <www.norml.org> in
Copyright © 2004 LewRockwell.com