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Federal Judge Says "Hands off Doctors"

Press Release from Americans for Medical Rights

Prop. 215 Victory

HANDS OFF DOCTORS, Judge Orders Feds

SAN FRANCISCO, April 11 - In a stunning victory for Proposition 215, Federal Judge Fern Smith today issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) blocking all federal officials from punishing doctors who recommend medical marijuana to their patients.

Dave Fratello, spokesman for Americans for Medical Rights, which sponsored Prop. 215, said, "Today's ruling protects doctors and patients and Proposition 215. The federal government's threats of a 'war on doctors' to thwart Prop. 215 have been found to be constitutionally suspect. It is time for drug czar Barry McCaffrey and the Clinton administration to end their threats and let Prop. 215 work as the voters intended."

The TRO imposed today by Judge Smith effectively means that physicians in California cannot be punished for discussing or recommending medical marijuana while the case proceeds.

"Judge Smith agrees with the physicians who have challenged the government policy," Fratello said, "The government says doctors can discuss medical marijuana with patients, but not recommend it, as called for in Prop. 215. Judge Smith said that the distinction between `discuss' and `recommend' is too vague to guide physicians. How can a doctor `discuss' medical marijuana if there is only one kind of advice permitted: to just say no?"

The lawsuit, a class action filed January 14 by several prominent physicians and four medical marijuana patients, seeks an injunction against federal officials to permanently bar threatened punishments of physicians who might recommend medical marijuana, including the loss of licenses to prescribe drugs, cutoff from Medicare and Medicaid eligibility, and the risk of criminal prosecution. The TRO is a step in that direction, although it is binding only while settlement discussions ordered by the judge take place.

The plaintiffs are represented by the San Francisco firm of Altshuler, Berzon, Nussbaum, Berzon and Rubin, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California.


Note: The TRO issued today prevents any future punishment of physicians who discuss or recommend marijuana while the TRO is in effect, which will be at least 10 days to permit settlement negotiations.

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