Dying Woman Loses Marijuana Appeal

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A tearful Oakland woman says the courts have handed her a death sentence. That was the reaction from medical marijuana advocate, Angel Raich, to today's court decision upholding the federal law against marijuana.

Eleven years ago, Californians legalized medical marijuana. Two years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that federal prohibitions of marijuana trump state law. Angel Raich went back to court claiming she had a fundamental right to life and she needed marijuana to live. Today, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said no.

The 41-year-old mother of two began crying as she explained her reaction to today's ruling.

Angel Raich, Medical Marijuana Patient: "It is a miscarriage of justice. I can't even begin to tell you what I'm feeling right now."

Angel Raich has been fighting in court for four years, claiming medical marijuana relieves her suffering from an inoperable brain tumor, scoliosis and a host of other ailments.

Angel Raich: "Tomorrow I have to go and have a brain tumor MRI. How am I supposed to get in a tube that's going to feel like a coffin?"

Raich says without marijuana, she'll die. But drug enforcement officials in the Bay Area say when it comes to marijuana busts, they're focused on major growers and smugglers, not medical marijuana patients showing up at their local cannabis clubs.

Andrea Lindsay works at a medical marijuana dispensary in San Francisco.

Andrea Lindsay, ACT UP Marijuana Dispensary: "We're not too concerned about it, quite frankly, and we're going to continue to serve patients and meet the medical need that San Franciscans have."

Former federal prosecutor, Joe Russoniello, says the feds do have a right to bust pot users, but today's ruling doesn't change much.

Joe Russoniello, Former U.S. Attorney: "Yes, it's true, the feds have lots of other things in their kit bag that they need to concern themselves -- higher priority than pot clubs -- when those clubs are operating in accordance with the intent and the spirit of the state statute."

California's medical marijuana statute was authored by Dennis Peron.

Dennis Peron, Author of Prop 215: "It was a eulogy to my lover who died of AIDS."

Peron says 12 other states have passed similar laws.

Dennis Peron: "They know it's a medicine. Everyone knows it is. It's totally political and they're using Angel Raich as a kind of a football."

In that back and forth, Angel Raich says she won't give up smoking marijuana. The court ruling that went against her today left an opening, saying that if she's arrested by the feds, medical necessity could be a defense.

Last month, the results of a three-year study at UCSF found smoking marijuana relieves chronic nerve pain associated with HIV.

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