The medical cannabis movement won several victories this year. Leaders predict that 2004 could produce a major showdown in the legal debate over pot as medicine, the Los Angeles Times says. In June, medical marijuana activist Ed Rosenthal avoided prison. Eight jurors told a federal judge they would have acquitted the self-proclaimed “Guru of Ganja,” had they known he was cultivating cannabis for the ill. In October, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that doctors in Western states do not risk federal investigation or punishment if they recommend marijuana use by their patients. Last week, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the federal government cannot prosecute patients using medical marijuana if they cultivate their own cannabis or obtain it for free.
Said Steph Sherer of Americans for Safe Access, a Berkeley-based advocacy group for medical marijuana: “We’re very close to a time when patients can focus on getting better instead of fighting the federal government.”
Still, federal officials remain committed to blocking a movement that has seen California and eight other states legalize medical cannabis. The federal government almost certainly will appeal the 9th Circuit ruling, setting up a potential showdown in the U.S. Supreme Court. By a 2 to 1 vote, a 9th Circuit panel said U.S. drug laws could not be used to prosecute two Northern California patients who used medical marijuana.
Congress justified passage of the Controlled Substances Act partly on its authority to regulate interstate commerce, including trafficking of drugs. The 9th Circuit ruled that the use of medical marijuana by Angel Raich and Diane Monson did not qualify as interstate commerce because the cannabis never crossed state lines and no money changed hands.