OAKLAND — Supporters of the Oakland Cannabis Buyers’ Cooperative say a Supreme Court ruling against them was a blow, but not a fatal one.
“This decision is not the end of the line by any means,” said Robert Raich, an attorney who represents the club.
The Supreme Court ruled Monday that there is no exception in federal law for people to use marijuana to ease their pain from cancer, AIDS or other illnesses.
But Raich and other backers of the Oakland club said medical necessity was just one of several legal arguments they are ready to make in favor of cannabis distribution clubs and they hope to be able to go to the lower courts to contend, among other things, that people have a constitutional right to be free of pain.
“We feel we have many other defenses left,” said Jeff Jones, executive director of the club.
The club is forbidden from distributing pot but has remained open to issue ID cards to verified medical marijuana patients.
The Supreme Court wasn’t ruling on Proposition 215, the voter-approved law that allows the possession and use of marijuana for medical purposes on a doctor’s recommendation.
Interpretations of what the ruling would mean to medical marijuana users in California varied.
“As far as I’m concerned, I’m doing business on Monday the same way I did business on Friday,” said Mendocino County District Attorney Norm Vroman, whose policy is not to prosecute in cases where people have no more than six mature plants and 2 pounds of dry marijuana.
“If the feds want to prosecute these people they can. In California, the law has not changed one iota.” Attorney General Bill Lockyer issued a statement saying the high court’s opinion needed further review.
But in Washington, Attorney General John Ashcroft issued a statement calling the ruling a “victory for enforcement of our nation’s drug laws.”
Oakland resident Angel McClary, a 35-year-old woman with an inoperable brain tumor who said that medical marijuana is the only thing that can stimulate her appetite and keep her from starving to death, angrily denounced the ruling as she spoke at a news conference called by club backers.
“The Supreme Court has American blood on their hands,” she said. McClary said she won’t stop using medical marijuana.
“I am not going to let my children watch me die. If that is wrong, so be it,” she said.