Patients Entitled To Raise Medical Use As Fundamental Right

A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled that U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer was in error when he previously dismissed counterclaims seeking injunctive and declaratory relief filed by patients who had obtained their marijuana from medical cannabis cooperatives. The underlying action was brought by the United States to enjoin several cannabis cooperatives in northern Californian from distributing marijuana to patients who qualified under Prop. 215. Several patients had intervened in an attempt to stop the federal government from closing the cooperatives.
In seeking the injunction, the patients had argued that the right to receive medication to relieve pain and suffering is a “fundamental right,” which therefore could only be enjoined by the federal government if they could demonstrate a “compelling state interest.” In issuing this latest ruling, the appellate court vacated the district court’s order and remanded the case for consideration “in light of our prior opinion.”
In that ruling, the same three-judge panel vacated another order entered by Judge Breyer that had held the medical cannabis dispensaries could not raise a medical necessity defense to the governmentÕs civil suit. The Court of Appeals ruled that the medical necessity defense does exist in federal law and ordered the trial judge to reconsider his ruling in light of that holding.
“The Ninth Circuit, in this unpublished decision, has said that Judge Breyer should at least consider the ‘fundamental right’ argument, rather than dismissing it out of hand,” said Robert Raich, Esq. “Obviously this would certainly be an additional argument that we should now use before Judge Breyer in our future pleadings.”
For more information, please contact Keith Stroup, NORML Executive Director at (202) 483-5500, or Robert Raich, Esq., at (510) 338-0700.