As Medical Marijuana Battle Moves to Appeals Court, ACLU Urges Protection of Doctors and their Patients

August 31, 2001 12:00 am

Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States


SAN FRANCISCO–In a legal brief filed with a federal appeals court here today, the American Civil Liberties Union is urging the court to uphold a ruling that the federal authorities cannot revoke the licenses of California doctors who recommend the medical use of marijuana to their patients.

“”Today we are asking the appeals court to put an end once and for all to the federal government’s politically driven attempt to negate the will of California voters by threatening physicians,” said Graham Boyd of the ACLU’s Drug Policy Litigation Project, who is lead counsel in Conant v. Jurith, No. 00-17222, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Last September, U.S. District Judge William Alsup issued a permanent injunction that blocks the government from revoking doctors’ licenses and prohibits the government from initiating investigations of physicians who have provided advice on the medical use of marijuana.

At issue in the case is whether the government has the power to issue a gag order on physicians based on its broad assertion that the “”public interest”” outweighs any First Amendment consideration.

“”This case is not about whether the federal government should legalize the medical use of marijuana,” said co-counsel Ann Brick of the ACLU of Northern California. “”It is about whether the federal government may prevent doctors from providing a patient with an honest medical opinion recommending marijuana.””

Dr. Milton Estes, an ACLU client in the case, said, “”It is critical that I be able to advise my patients on the medical use of marijuana without fear of being criminally prosecuted or losing my license.”” Dr. Estes has a private practice in Marin and oversees the care of all HIV-positive inmates in San Francisco County jails.

Following the filing of today’s legal brief, the government will file its response and the court will then set a date for an argument, which will likely take place in 2002.

The national ACLU filed the initial lawsuit in January 1997, along with the ACLU of Northern California, the Lindesmith Center (a New York-based drug policy group), and attorneys with the San Francisco firm of Altshuler, Berzon, Nussbaum, Rubin & Demain.

The ACLU legal brief is online at

Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.

Learn More About the Issues in This Press Release