The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against allowing the sick and dying to use marijuana to ease their symptoms and possibly prolong life. A case being argued today before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco raises the “right to life” theory: that pot should be allowed if it is the only viable option to keep a patient alive or free of excruciating pain, the Associated Press reports. It would apply only to the sickest patients and their suppliers.
The case was filed by Angel Raich, 40, a mother of two from Oakland, Ca., who suffers from scoliosis, a brain tumor, chronic nausea and other ailments. She uses marijuana every couple of hours to ease her pain and bolster her appetite. Yet “there is no fundamental right to distribute, cultivate or possess marijuana,” says federal prosecutor Mark Quinlivan. Voters in 1996 made California the first state to authorize patients to use marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation. Ten other states have followed suit but the federal government insists there is no medical value to the drug. Justice Clarence Thomas in 2001 left the legal questions surrounding medical marijuana unsettled. Thomas wrote that important underlying constitutional questions remain unresolved, such as Congress’ ability to interfere with states experimenting with their own laws and whether Americans have a fundamental right to marijuana as a vehicle to help them stay alive and ease pain.