"Whether the [U.S.] Controlled Substances Act, 21 U.S.C. 801 et seq., exceeds Congress' power under the Commerce Clause as applied to the intrastate cultivation and possession of marijuana for purported personal 'medicinal' use or to the distribution of marijuana without charge for such use.
II. Case Summary
Two medical marijuana patients, Angel McClary Raich and Diane Monson, and two caregivers, John Doe Number One and John Doe Number Two, filed a complaint and motion for preliminary injunction against U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and former DEA Administrator Asa Hutchinson. The case was named at the time Raich, et al. v. Ashcroft, et al.
The plaintiffs asked Judge Martin J. Jenkins to issue a Preliminary Injunction during the pendency of the action, and a Declaratory Relief and a Permanent Injunction enjoining the defendants from arresting or prosecuting the plaintiffs, seizing their medical cannabis, forfeiting their property, or seeking civil or administrative sanctions against them for their activities with respect to any of the following:
the possession of medical cannabis by Plaintiffs Angel McClary Raich and Diane Monson for their personal medical use;
the ability of McClary Raich to obtain medical cannabis from her caregivers, John Doe Numbers One and Two, for her personal medical use;
the ability of John Doe Numbers One and Two to cultivate and provide medical cannabis to McClary Raich for her personal medical use;
the processing of medical cannabis by McClary Raich for her personal medical use; and
the cultivation of medical cannabis by Monson for her personal medical use.
The complaint stated that John Ashcroft and Asa Hutchinson are "unconstitutionally exceeding their authority by embarking on a campaign of seizing or forfeiting privately-grown intrastate medical cannabis from California patients and caregivers, arresting or prosecuting such patients, mounting paramilitary raids against patients and caregivers, harassing patients and caregivers, and taking other civil or administrative actions against them."
The injunction was denied. The plaintiffs then filed an appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The Court reversed the judgment, ruling that the government's actions were unconstitutional.
The U.S. government appealed this decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, changing the name of the case to Ashcroft et al. v. Raich et al. Oral arguments were held on 11/29/04. A decision is expected before July 2005.
III. Implications of the Verdict
A.Win for Ashcroft: A win for the U.S. Government will not change state laws. Approved medical marijuana use within those states that have medical marijuana laws will continue to be "legal" under state laws and "illegal" under federal laws. Cannabis clinics or clubs that "sell" medical marijuana (and are not patient co-ops), will be more vulnerable to federal arrest and seizure. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and other law enforcement agencies may feel bolstered by the decision, and use it to "crack down" on medical marijuana centers, cultivations, patients, and their caregivers.
B.Win for Raich: A win for Raich will mean that federal law enforcement cannot arrest patients who adhere to state laws and possess or cultivate only for themselves (and possibly a few patients if no money is exchanged). The federal government may still be able to arrest and sanction those clinics, clubs, and cultivations that do not adhere to the specifics of permissibility under the Commerce Clause.
IV. Case Documents (in chronological order)
A. United States District Court of the North District of California[Defendant=Ashcroft, Plaintiff=Raich]