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Medical Marijuana Fight Goes to Supreme Court


Medical marijuana backers say their movement is growing. Voters in Alaska, Colorado, Maine, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington have passed measures similar to the one in California.

"This is not about legalizing marijuana, this is about making medical necessity [of marijuana] available to patients," says Jeff Jones, the founder of the buyers' club and the main defendant in the case.

Yet, others have a different view.

"We are a compassionate society. No one wants to deprive sick people of something that could be really helpful to them. But we have good evidence that sick people are being harmed by using marijuana," says David Evans, who represents a coalition of more than 50 antidrug groups that filed a brief with the Court supporting the government's side.

Others argue that approving medical uses for an otherwise illegal product sends mixed messages to America's kids.

"The availability is teaching our children that marijuana is a medicine, and therefore, it can't be dangerous, it must be safe," says Sue Rusche, director of the National Families in Action.

Still, there are those who insist they would have suffered or died without marijuana.

"If it weren't for medical cannabis increasing my appetite, ... I wouldn't be here speaking to you today," testified Mike Alcalay, MD, an AIDS patient who's also the medical director of the Oakland cooperative.

Supporters of the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative include the California Medical Association and the California Attorney General.

According to The Associated Press, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says President Bush supports a federal ban on marijuana while endorsing the right of states to pass referendums like California's. But overall, Fleischer says, Bush opposes medicinal marijuana.

Two years ago, the Institute of Medicine issued a qualified endorsement of medical marijuana, saying it had potential value as a treatment for the wasting disorder associated with HIV, but also acknowledged that pot smoking increased the risk of cancer.

Currently, there are still eight people who hold FDA prescriptions to use medical marijuana under a revoked compassionate use program. One of those is Elvy Musikka of California, who receives 10 marijuana cigarettes daily from the government to control her glaucoma.

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