News Release

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May 14, 2001

Federal Statute Defining Marijuana As Having “No Medical Use” Forbids Manufacturing and Distributing Medical Pot, Court Affirms
State-Approved Use of Medical Marijuana By Patients Not Challenged By Decision

        Washington, DC:  Parties who grow or distribute marijuana for medical purposes may not raise the defense of medical necessity under federal law, the Supreme Court ruled today.  Their ruling reverses a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision that ruled federal law exempts third party providers who cultivate and supply marijuana to patients who would suffer “serious harm if they were denied cannabis.”

        However, the Court made clear that their decision does not infringe on the use of medical marijuana by individual patients, an issue that was “not presented” before them.

        “The legal use of medical marijuana by seriously ill patients in states that have legalized its use is neither threatened nor challenged by this decision,” NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup said.  “This ruling applies only to the manufacture and distribution of medical marijuana under federal law, and finds that Congress intended to prohibit such activities by placing marijuana in Schedule I of the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, even when such activities are pursued to prevent imminent harm to those patients with serious medical conditions.”

        NORML’s disappointment with this ruling stands more with Congress — that continues to stubbornly classify marijuana as a Schedule I prohibited drug with ‘no acceptable medical use in treatment’ — than with the Court.  Clearly, this decision stresses the need for Congress to reschedule marijuana to enact federal safeguards for patients who are using it medicinally, and provide for states to establish their own legal, medical marijuana distribution systems to supply medicine to those who need it.”

        For more information, please contact Keith Stroup, Executive Director of NORML, at (202) 483-5500 or Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of The NORML Foundation, (202) 483-8751.

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