Excellent news: The US’s highest court has rejected a Bush administration appeal of a judicial ruling that would protect compassionate physicians from punishment and investigation for recommending marijuana use to sick patients.
The Supreme Court, without comment, let stand a San Francisco appellate court’s ruling that the federal government’s policy against doctors who recommend pot violated those physicians’ constitutional rights to free-speech, as well as those of their patients.
As Reuters reports:
The case began after California voters in 1996 adopted Proposition 215, which makes it legal for seriously ill patients to grow and possess marijuana for medical use when a doctor recommends it.
Since the case began, eight other states — Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington — have approved similar medical marijuana laws. [Florida’s NBC6 has information on how medical marijuana is dealt with in a variety of US states.]
The Clinton administration threatened to revoke the licenses of physicians who recommended marijuana as a medical treatment, a policy the Bush administration has continued and defended.
In 1997, a number of physicians and patients sued in federal court in California.
The appeals court upheld a federal judge’s injunction that bars the US Drug Enforcement Administration from revoking a physician’s registration to prescribe federally regulated narcotics. The agency also was barred from even beginning an investigation of any doctor who recommended marijuana.
Solicitor General Theodore Olson of the Justice Department appealed to the Supreme Court and said the decision impaired the government’s power “to enforce the law in an area vital to the public health and safety.”
He said the appeals court decision imposed “sweeping and unprecedented restrictions on the government’s ability even to investigate possible violations of the law.”
Lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union, which helped represent those challenging the policy, opposed the appeal. They called the government policy censorship of speech covered by the physician-patient relationship.
“What’s at issue is the ability of doctors to speak openly and honestly with their patients about marijuana as a viable therapy option,” said Graham Boyd, director of the ACLU’s Drug Policy Litigation Project.
“Patients deserve access to accurate information about (marijuana’s) medicinal value in treating pain, nausea, wasting syndrome and other symptoms of life-threatening diseases,” he said.
Thank goodness the SCOTUS upheld our right to that access.
The problem is not solved, though. Back in 2001, the very same court ruled that cannabis clubs can not provide pot to patients as a “medical necessity.” Thousands of people sit in the nation’s jails for exercising their right to use a plant, and many of them are folks who only sought relief from chronic illnesses. Marijuana is still classified as a controlled substance and is considered by the government as a “drug” with “a high potential for abuse” that has “no currently accepted medical use” and is unsafe even when used under medical supervision. Many doctors disagree with that stone-age, nonsensical thinking — at least we can celebrate that their right to say so has been protected.
Now if only something could be done about putting a stop to the hypocritical, immoral, and draconian War on (Some) Drugs and a Plant…