Supreme Court Ruling Cancels Provisions in State Medical Marijuana Laws Protecting Users From Federal Prosecution
June 7, 2005
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday in a 6-3 decision ruled that the federal government's ban on marijuana trumps provisions in state laws allowing patients with chronic illnesses, including HIV/AIDS and cancer, to be exempt from federal prosecution when using the drug for medicinal purposes, USA Today reports (Biskupic, USA Today, 6/7). Thirty-five states have enacted legislation recognizing marijuana's medicinal value, and California, Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington have laws permitting the use of medical marijuana (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/30/04). In the case Gonzales v. Raich, which dealt with federal and California laws on marijuana use, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government has the authority to regulate interstate commerce to seize homegrown marijuana, which is considered illegal under federal law but legal under some states' laws, the Los Angeles Times reports. The federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970 classifies marijuana as a "dangerous and illegal" drug with no medicinal benefits, according to the Times. The court said federal drug agents, prosecutors and judges could arrest, try and punish those who grow or use marijuana for any purposes, but state and local police do not need to assist in the efforts. State laws allowing marijuana use in certain cases still could have "practical significance" because most law enforcement is carried out by state and local officials, the Times reports (Savage, Los Angeles Times, 6/7). Federal prosecutions of marijuana-related crimes make up a small percentage of drug convictions nationwide, according to USA Today.
Reaction, House Bill
Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at www.kaisernetwork.org/dailyreports/hiv. The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of the Kaiser Family Foundation, by The Advisory Board Company. © 2005 by The Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.
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