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Cancer Health Center

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Supreme Court Rules Against Medical Marijuana

Justices Say Federal Government Can Prosecute in States That Have Legalized Medical Marijuana

White House Reaction continued...

Just 16 federal raids on medical marijuana growers have taken place since 1996, all of them on large growing operations of 500 to 1,000 plants, according the Drug Policy Alliance, a pro-medical marijuana group.

"Legally nothing is different today than before Raich. The million dollar question is whether the fed government is going to all the sudden change the way it does business and start going after these individual sick people and their caregivers," said Dan Abrahamson, the group's director of legal affairs.

Several states, including Alabama, New Mexico, Connecticut, and Wisconsin are considering new medical marijuana exemptions. Monday's ruling could cause those states to think twice before going against federal drug policy backed by a fresh Supreme Court decision upholding it.

"I think there might be a potential chilling effect for awhile," Abrahamson says.

Marijuana as Medicine

Though it is not a direct part of Ashcroft v. Raich, the question of marijuana's status as legitimate medicine -- and not just as an abused drug -- has always been at the center of the debate. Many patients, like Raich, call the drug a lifesaver for its apparent ability to ease chronic pain and other disabling symptoms from certain chronic conditions.

According to court documents, Raich suffers from scoliosis, fibromyalgia, endometriosis, a brain tumor, and several other chronic conditions. "I owe my survival and my ability to lead a relatively normal existence to medical marijuana," Raich wrote on a web site dedicated to her case.

Frank Henry Lucido, MD, Raich's primary care physician, testified in court papers that she would suffer "imminent harm without access to cannabis" because of chronic pain, seizures, and an inability to tolerate most prescription drugs.

Other patients extol marijuana for its ability to quell nausea and vomiting of the kind often associated with cancer treatments. AIDS patients have long used the drug for its appetite-stimulating effects that can combat severe weight loss known as wasting.

A report issued by the Institute of Medicine acknowledged the ability of marijuana's active ingredient, THC, to provide pain relief, control nausea and vomiting, and to stimulate the appetite. But the group stopped far short of endorsing the drug as a medical treatment, noting that "smoked marijuana, however, is a crude THC delivery system that also delivers harmful substances."

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