"...certain to be one of the most closely watched [US Supreme Court case] of the next term."

-- June 28, 2004 NY Times

Case No: 03-1454 (US Supreme Court)

Oral Arguments: Nov. 29, 2004, 10:00 AM

Decision Expected: By July, 2005

Question Presented to the Court: "Whether the [US] Controlled Substances Act, 21 USC. 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."

Case Timeline: (Main Events) in date order.

Oct. 9
Complaint filed: 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 US Attorney General John Ashcroft and former DEA Administrator Asa Hutchinson. The case is named, at this 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 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:

  1. the possession of medical cannabis by Plaintiffs Angel McClary Raich and Diane Monson for their personal medical use;

  2. the ability of McClary Raich to obtain medical cannabis from her caregivers, John Doe Numbers One and Two, for her personal medical use;

  3. the ability of John Doe Numbers One and Two to cultivate and provide medical cannabis to McClary Raich for her personal medical use;

  4. the processing of medical cannabis by McClary Raich for her personal medical use; and

  5. the cultivation of medical cannabis by Monson for her personal medical use.

The complaint states 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."
[View complaint (PDF 650 KB)]
[View Defendants' Opposition (PDF 300 KB)]

Dec. 17
Court Hearing: Prior to issuing his order on the motion for preliminary injunction filed on Oct. 9, 2002 by plaintiffs (see above), US District Court Judge Martin J. Jenkins held a hearing with Raich's attorneys and Ashcroft's attorney to discuss issues of law raised by the motion for preliminary injunction.
Mar. 5
Injunction Denied: The District Court filed an order denying the preliminary injunction, stating that "[t]he fact that, in the Court's view, the equitable factors tip in plaintiff's favor does not alter the Court's conclusion" that Plaintiff Raich will be unable to establish a liklihood of success on the merits. The Court held that "the weight" of the Ninth Circuit's precedents, which it must follow it issue its order, were against Raich.
[View court order (PDF 775 KB)]
Mar. 12
Appeal Filed: The Plaintiffs filed a Notice of Appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to appeal the District Court order denying the injunction against the Justice Department.
2003 Apr. 23
Opening Brief: Appellants (Plaintiffs -- Raich, Monson and John Doe Numbers One and Two) filed their Opening Brief in the Court of Appeals.
[View Appellants Brief (PDF 1.5 MB)]
May 28
Answering Brief: Appellees (Defendants -- Ashcroft & Hutchinson) filed their Answering Brief in the Court of Appeals.
[View Appellees Answering Brief (PDF 2.5 MB)]
Oct. 7
9th Circuit Hearing: Hearing in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. The case was heard before judges Pregerson, Beam (8th Circuit), and Paez.
Dec. 16
9th Circuit Ruling Issued: The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the District Court judgment denying Raich's injunction against the Justice Department and ruled in support of patients and caregivers -- holding that the Federal government's actions against them are unconstitutional and "that the burden faced by the appellants if (...) they are denied access to medicinal marijuana, warrants the entry of a preliminary injunction."

Vote: 2-1.
Majority Opinion: Judge Harry Pregerson, 9th Circuit. Joined by: Judge Richard A. Paez, 9th Circuit
Dissenting Opinion: Judge C. Arlen Beam, 8th Circuit (Midwest)

[View Decision (PDF 100 KB)]

Jan. 24
Request for En Banc Hearing: The US Justice Department filed a request for a rehearing of the case by an 11-judge panel ("en banc").
Feb. 25
Request for En Banc Denied: The federal appeals court in San Francisco refused to reconsider its ruling that allows Californians to grow and use marijuana to treat their illnesses.
Apr. 20
Case Appealed: The US Government files a Petition for a writ of certiorari with the US Supreme Court. The case now becomes known as Ashcroft, et al. v. Raich, et al.
June 28
Case Accepted: The US Supreme Court granted the Petition for a writ of certiorari.
Sep. 29
Oral Arguments Scheduled: The US Supreme Court scheduled oral arguments for 10 am on Monday, Nov. 29, 2004.
Nov. 29
Oral Arguments: Held at 10 am on Nov. 29, 2005. Click here to read transcripts of the proceedings, which centered mainly along discussions of the Commerce Clause.