Press Release

U.S. Supreme Court Decision Warrants State Review of Alaska's Medical Marijuana Registration Law

June 6, 2005

(Anchorage) – Today the United States Supreme Court issued an opinion finding that California's medical marijuana laws are not a bar to enforcement of federal anti-drug laws. Today's decision may have substantial implications for a similar law in Alaska.

In the decision, Gonzales v. McClary Raich, (Raich), the high court noted that the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) (which is Title II of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970) designates marijuana as "contraband for any purpose." In the process, the court also recognized that Congress rejected the idea that marijuana has any acceptable medicinal use.

In Raich, backers of California's medical marijuana laws sought an injunction to stop enforcement of the CSA to the extent that it prevents patients from possessing, obtaining or manufacturing marijuana for medical use. The backers argued that Congress had no authority to criminalize activities that are legal by state law. The Supreme Court rejected this in a ruling that has implications for states, such as Alaska, that have medical marijuana laws.

"Alaska's medicinal use law is very similar to the law in California," said Attorney General David Márquez. "Today's decision did not strike down the California law but rather reaffirmed the authority of the federal government to regulate marijuana. The question we must analyze is whether and how state medicinal use laws can continue to operate in light of this ruling."

In Raich, the high court found that in enacting the CSA, Congress had adopted a comprehensive scheme for regulating illegal drug use, including marijuana. The availability of marijuana in states that have medicinal use laws challenges the regulatory provisions of the CSA, especially where this concerns the ability to introduce marijuana within the interstate market. Congress has broad authority to regulate these markets under the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution.

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