SUPREMES ON MEDICAL MARIJUANA

Boston Globe:

In a major legal breakthrough for advocates of marijuana as medicine, the Supreme Court rebuffed an effort by the federal government to stop doctors from suggesting that treatment option to their patients.

The justices left intact a federal appeals court ruling that doctors have a constitutional right to recommend marijuana, as long as they do not help their patients violate federal law in obtaining the illegal drug.

The lower court blocked the Drug Enforcement Administration from taking away a doctor’s federal license to prescribe drugs as a penalty for proposing that a patient smoke marijuana. The federal agency was also barred from starting an investigation of a doctor that could lead to loss of license.

Dr. Marcus Conant, the San Francisco doctor who led the challenge to the DEA, said the court’s action “means that I can do my job again and have real conversations with my patients about medical marijuana as part of their treatment options.”

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, led by the nation’s “drug czar,” John P. Walters, said in a statement that the court order dealt only with doctor-patient relationships, “not the efficacy of smoked marijuana as medicine.” The office added that the “cultivation and trafficking of marijuana remains a federal offense.” The Justice Department declined comment.

I haven’t read the opinion yet but this strikes me as an odd ruling. The Court has previously ruled that states can’t legalize medical marijuana since the drug is proscribed by federal law, yet it now rules that doctors can recommend that their patients commit crimes. Which, while I’m not an expert in the elements of criminal law, is probably itself a crime–conspiracy maybe? Aiding and abbeting?

And, again, I think the federal law here is silly: marijuana should be decriminalized, whether for medical or recreational use. But while it’s illegal, it should be treated as such.

FILED UNDER: Media
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    The Court has previously ruled that states can’t legalize medical marijuana since the drug is proscribed by federal law, yet it now rules that doctors can recommend that their patients commit crimes.

    The Supreme Court didn’t rule anything; it denied cert, meaning it has passed up the chance to rule on this case. (Not your fault, the Globe article was remarkably unclear on this point.)