Raich loses medical marijuana appeal
Angel and Richard Raich
Photo courtesy www.chieftain.com
By Julia Cheever, Bay City News Service
March 14, 2007
SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - A seriously ill Oakland woman who
says she needs medical marijuana to "avoid intolerable pain
and death" lost a bid to a federal appeals court today for
the right to use the substance.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in San Francisco
that Angel Raich, 41, does not have a fundamental liberty right
to use marijuana that she believes necessary to preserve her life.
The court said legal recognition of medical marijuana "has
not yet reached the point where a conclusion can be drawn that
the right to use marijuana is fundamental and implicit in the
concept of ordered liberty."
Two judges on a three-judge panel said "that day may be
upon us sooner than expected" as medical marijuana gains
But they said that for now, "Federal law does not recognize
a fundamental right to use medical marijuana prescribed by a licensed
physician to alleviate excruciating pain and human suffering."
Raich suffers from at least 10 serious medical conditions, including
an inoperable brain tumor, a seizure disorder, life-threatening
weight loss and several chronic pain disorders, the court said.
She and her doctor maintain that she needs marijuana to combat
the illnesses and pain and that other alternatives are either
ineffective or have intolerable side effects.
Raich has never been federally prosecuted for using marijuana,
but had filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction protecting her from
Her husband and attorney, Robert Raich, said she was "devastated"
by the decision.
"We have the court saying she doesn't have the right to
preserve her own life," the attorney said.
Robert Raich said Angel Raich is considering several options,
including a possible appeal to an expanded panel of the circuit
court or further proceedings before a federal trial judge in San
The attorney said further proceedings would concern Raich's claim
that the wording of the federal Controlled Substances Act does
not apply to her. The appeals court did not address that claim
in today's ruling.
The decision was made in Raich's second appeal for an injunction
protecting her from federal prosecution.
In an earlier part of the case, the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005
rejected Raich's claim that her locally grown medical marijuana
was not part of interstate commerce and thus was not subject to
federal laws criminalizing marijuana.
The high court said Congress's power to regulate interstate commerce
includes the authority to ban marijuana grown and used within
The case was then returned to the appeals court for consideration
of Raich's liberty claim.
Although California's Compassionate Use Act protects seriously
ill patients from state prosecution for using medical marijuana
on a doctor's recommendation, federal drug laws make no exception
for the state law.
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