The Supreme Court this week agreed to hear an appeal of a ninth U.S. circuit court of appeals ruling that the federal ban on marijuana is unconstitutional when applied to seriously ill people who use the drug under a physician’s recommendation in states where such use is permitted, the Los Angeles Times reports. The appeal was filed by Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft, who maintains that marijuana use is banned under federal law in all instances. The circuit court ruling says the ban does not apply to marijuana use in the nine states that have legislature- or voter-approved medical marijuana laws so long as the drug is not sold, transported across state lines, or used for nonmedical purposes.
The original case stemmed from two California women who received letters from their doctors authorizing them to use medical marijuana, which is permitted in the state, and who filed a lawsuit in 2002 against Ashcroft and former DEA administrator Asa Hutchison asking for an injunction against federal prosecution. A judge initially ruled against the women, but that ruling was overturned by the ninth circuit court. The case is scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court this fall, and a decision is expected by the end of June 2005.
Currently, California, Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington have laws permitting the use of medical marijuana. Thirty-five other states have enacted legislation recognizing the drug’s medicinal value; the federal government considers marijuana to have no legitimate medical benefits.