More MS news articles for Jan 2002

Medical Marijuana Group Reopens Case

Tuesday January 8 11:38 PM ET
Medical Marijuana Group Reopens Case
By DAVID KRAVETS, Associated Press Writer

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A group the Supreme Court barred from distributing medical marijuana reopened its case Tuesday, hoping to pursue other legal avenues in its efforts to dole out cannabis to the sick.

The move comes eight months after the nation's highest court said the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative was violating federal drug laws. Lawyers expect the new case to also reach the Supreme Court.

"The Supreme Court issued a very narrow ruling," said Robert Raich, the cooperative's attorney. "We are taking the invitation to open up other issues."

Mark Quinlivan, the Justice Department (news - web sites)'s lead attorney on the case, said Tuesday that the government had no comment on the new filing. A hearing before a federal judge is set for next month.

In May, the high court ruled that the so-called "medical necessity defense" was at odds with a 1970 federal law that marijuana, heroin and LSD have no medical benefits and cannot be dispensed or prescribed by doctors.

But Justice Clarence Thomas (news - web sites) noted that important constitutional questions remained, such as Congress' ability to interfere with intrastate commerce, the right of states to experiment with their own laws and whether Americans have a fundamental right to marijuana as a way to be free of pain.

In 1996, California became the first state to approve a medical marijuana law.

Despite the Supreme Court's decision, many marijuana clubs distribute marijuana to the sick and thousands of people grow and smoke marijuana for medical reasons.

In October, federal agents shut down a West Hollywood cannabis club that doled out marijuana to the sick. Other recent actions include the raid of a Ventura County garden operated by patients and the seizure of medical records from a northern California doctor who is a prominent medical marijuana proponent.

Copyright © 2002 The Associated Press