SW Legal studies in Business

Congress Clearly Chooses to Prohibit All Use of Marijuana; No Medical Exception
Description The Supreme Court held that the courts cannot create a common-law or equity medical use exception to the strict federal statute that governs marijuana. Congress has clearly chosen to regulate this drug in a highly restrictive manner, so the courts may not interfere.
Topic Criminal Law
Key Words Controlled Substances Act; Marijuana; Medical Use
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts The Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative was organized to distribute marijuana to qualified patients for medical purposes. The U.S. government sued to enjoin the Coop under the Controlled Substances Act which prohibits the distribution, manufacturing, and possession of controlled substances, which includes marijuana. The federal district court enjoined the Coop's activities, but it continued to distribute marijuana, at which point it held the Coop in contempt of court. The Coop defended that it distributed marijuana only for those who had a medical necessity and that this provides a common-law necessity defense. The federal appeals court held that medical necessity is a defense that may be applied to the Coop's practice in equity. The government appealed to the Supreme Court.
Decision Reversed. In a unanimous decision the Court held that there is no common-law medical necessity exceptions to the Controlled Substances Act's restrictions on marijuana. Further, courts cannot use their powers of equity to ignore the judgment of Congress. The only use is for government-approved research projects. Congress has the Constitutional power to regulate drugs. Under the regulatory scheme, some drugs, such as marijuana, are schedule I drugs, the most restricted. Congress has expressly considered this issue and refused to change the law.
Citation U.S. v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative, - S.Ct. - (2001 WL 501567, Sup. Ct., 2001)

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