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OCTOBER 13, 2003
12:55 PM
CONTACT: Marijuana Policy Project 
Bruce Mirken 415-668-6403
Supreme Court to Decide Tuesday Whether to Hear Crucial Medical Marijuana Case
WASHINGTON - October 13 - The U.S. Supreme Court will announce on Tuesday, Oct. 14, whether it will hear Conant v. Walters, a case that could effectively decide the fate of state medical marijuana laws. Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) staffers on both the East and West Coasts will be available for comment on this historic case.

At issue in the case is the right of physicians to recommend marijuana to patients whom they believe would benefit from its use. After California voters passed its medical marijuana law, Prop. 215, in 1996, the federal government threatened to revoke the DEA registrations of physicians who recommend marijuana -- taking away their right to prescribe any controlled substance and effectively putting them out of business.

A group of California physicians and patients, led by pioneering AIDS specialist Marcus Conant, M.D., sued in federal court, arguing that physicians have a First Amendment right to freely discuss any potentially beneficial treatment with patients. The doctors and patients won on both the district court and appellate levels, winning a unanimous ruling in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The U.S. Justice Department, led by Attorney General John Ashcroft, has asked the Supreme Court to review the Ninth Circuit ruling.

"Whatever the Supreme Court decides will be historic, because the right of physicians to recommend medical marijuana is absolutely critical to the operation of medical marijuana laws in Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington," said MPP Executive Director Robert Kampia. "According to national polling, 80 percent of the American public supports laws to protect medical marijuana patients, so President Bush may come to regret sanctioning this appeal: If the Court takes the case, a ruling could well come just as the presidential election campaign is beginning to heat up."

Kampia and MPP Director of Government Relations Steve Fox will be available for comment from MPP's Washington, D.C., headquarters. Director of Communications Bruce Mirken will be available at MPP's San Francisco office. To arrange an interview, please call Bruce Mirken at 415-668-6403.


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