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Supreme Court hears arguments in medical marijuana case

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court heard arguments Monday in Ashcroft v. Raich (case summary from Duke Law School), a California case involving the use of marijuana as a legitimate medical treatment. The court is considering whether sick people in the eleven states which recognize medical marijuana can get around general federal laws which ban the drug. The Bush administration is arguing Congress has not found any acceptable medical use for marijuana and that by allowing such treatment, the government will be unable to eradicate drug trafficking and its related social harms. Paul Clement, the Bush administration's top court lawyer, argued before the court today that medical use of marijuana is potentially subjecting many people to health dangers. Raich's attorney countered by saying his clients are law-abiding citizens who need marijuana to survive. Justice Stephen Breyer said supporters of medical marijuana should take their fight to federal drug regulators before coming to the Supreme Court while other justices repeatedly referred to America's drug addiction problems. The case is an appeal from a decision [PDF] by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit which ruled against the government and found federal prosecution of medical marijuana users to be unconstitutional if the marijuana is not sold, transported across state lines or used for non-medicinal purposes. The Supreme Court ruled three years ago that the government could prosecute distributors of medical marijuana. The case is Ashcroft v. Raich, 03-1454. The Raich plaintiffs legal team has created an extensive website about the case and the isues it raises. AP has more.

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