October 14, 2003 - Drug Policy Alliance

Triumph for Drug Policy Alliance and All Drug Policy Reform Advocates

Supreme Court Declines to Hear Government on Medical Marijuana

In a major victory for doctors, patients and the Drug Policy Alliance, the highest court in the U.S. has declined to hear the federal government's case against doctors' rights to recommend medical marijuana. On Tuesday the Supreme Court said that it would not review a lower court's decision to uphold a doctor's right to recommend the drug to patients. This means that the federal government is still prohibited from threatening physicians who recommend, or even discuss, medical marijuana use with their patients. Already the decision has drawn a tidal wave of media seeking comment from the Drug Policy Alliance. Dan Abrahamson, Director of Legal Affairs, today spoke with reporters from the New York Times, USA Today, LA Times and dozens of other media outlets.

The decision is an important success for the Alliance. In November 1996, we initiated the legal case against the federal government on behalf of California's doctors and patients. The Alliance recruited the physician and patient plaintiffs, hired the ACLU and a private law firm as co-counsel, and helped fund the expensive class action lawsuit throughout its seven-year lifespan. Together we successfully prevented the government from punishing physicians who recommended medical use of marijuana to sick and dying patients. In October 2002, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit unanimously upheld doctors' free speech rights to recommend or approve marijuana as treatment. The Bush Administration appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the High Court has refused to disturb the lower court's decision.

Both Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush have tried to stop medical marijuana in states that have approved the drug by threatening to remove the license of any doctor who even mentions medical marijuana to a patient. As a result of the Supreme Court victory, the federal government's intrusion into state-level medical marijuana policies has been dealt a big setback and states without medical marijuana laws are given a green light to enact laws similar to those upheld in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

Medical marijuana is proven to be effective in treating various serious illnesses and is the most widely supported issue in drug policy reform. The Alliance will continue to lead efforts to secure the rights of doctors to recommend and patients to use this drug.

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