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The BBC's Jonny Dymond in Washington
"The federal government was alarmed as drug policy seemed to be slipping through its fingers"
 real 28k

Monday, 14 May, 2001, 17:01 GMT 18:01 UK
US outlaws 'medical' marijuana
Studies show the drug can benefit some patients
The United States Supreme Court has ended a legal battle over the medical use of marijuana, ruling that there are no circumstances which justify it.

The ruling will disappoint sufferers of diseases such as Aids, cancer and multiple sclerosis who claim that cannabis helps combat symptoms of their illnesses.

There is no currently accepted medical use for the drug, and it has a high potential for abuse

US Justice Department
In a unanimous ruling, eight Supreme Court judges said that in the Controlled Substances Act, "Congress has made a determination that marijuana has no medical benefits worthy of an exception."

The BBC's Jonny Dymond in Washington says that the ruling stops the growing movement to legalise medical marijuana in its tracks.

The case, United States v Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative and Jeffrey Jones, resulted from a government effort to shut down six California marijuana distributors.

Cannabis-buying clubs

The government sued the six cooperatives, which were formed to provide cannabis to people whose doctors had prescribed it.

Five have closed since the case first reached the courts in 1998.

The last one, the Oakland Cooperative, has restricted itself to registering potential marijuana users while fighting the case through the courts.

Rolling a marijuana cigarette
The ruling stops a movement in its tracks
In oral arguments, the government said "there is no currently accepted medical use for the drug, and it has a high potential for abuse".

It argued that the Cooperative's medical-necessity defence did not apply because disease sufferers could use synthetic alternatives to the active ingredient in marijuana.

Eight US states, including California, have held local referendums to approve the use of cannabis for medical purposes. A ninth, Hawaii, passed a law permitting it.

Last year, the US House of Representatives considered a national bill to counteract the state measures, but did not pass it.

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer - the ninth judge on the court - disqualified himself from the case because his brother, a federal judge, presided over the original case.

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