SAN FRANCISCO, Sept.7, 2000. A federal court in San Francisco has ruled that the government cannot punish doctors who recommend marijuana for medicine under California's Proposition 215.

In response to a lawsuit by a group of doctors and patients represented by the ACLU, U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup issued a permanent injunction to forbid the government from depriving doctors of their license to prescribe scheduled medications simply because they recommend marijuana for medical use.

The ruling reaffirmed an earlier temporary injunction issued in 1997, which had blocked the government from carrying out a threat to de-license doctors who recommend marijuana under Prop. 215.

The court ruled that doctors' advice to patients is protected by the First Amendment. Judge Alsup added that the order applies even if "the physician anticipates that the recommendation will, in turn, be used by the patient to obtain marijuana in violation of federal law."

The injunction protects all licensed physicians practicing in California who treat patients suffering from severe nausea, wasting syndrome or anorexia, increased intra-ocular pressure, seizures or muscle spasms associated with a chronic, debilitating condition, and/or severe, chronic pain, in the context of a bona fide physician-patient relationship.

(Postnote, 2001: The Department of Justice has appealed Judge Alsup's decision to the Ninth Circuit.)

The case is Conant v. McCaffrey, C97-00139WHA.

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