WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court appeared hesitant yesterday to endorse medical marijuana for patients who have a doctor’s recommendation.

Justices are considering whether sick people in 11 states with medical marijuana laws can get around a federal ban on pot.

Paul Clement, the Bush administration’s top court lawyer, noted that California allows people with chronic physical and mental health problems to smoke pot and said that potentially many people are subjecting themselves to health dangers.

“Smoked marijuana really doesn’t have any future in medicine,” he said.

Justice Stephen Breyer said supporters of marijuana for the ill should take their fight to federal drug regulators.

Dozens of people camped outside the high court to hear justices debate the issue. Groups such as the Drug Free America Foundation fear a government loss will undermine campaigns against addictive drugs.

The high court heard arguments in the case of Angel Raich, who tried dozens of prescription medicines to ease the pain of a brain tumor and other illnesses before she turned to pot.

Supporters of Raich and another ill woman who filed a lawsuit after her California home was raided by federal agents argue that people with the AIDS virus, cancer and other diseases should be able to grow and use marijuana.

Their attorney, Randy Barnett of Boston, told justices that his clients are law-abiding citizens who need marijuana to survive. Marijuana may have some side effects, he said, but seriously sick people are willing to take the chance.

Besides California, nine other states allow people to use medical marijuana: Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. Arizona also has a law permitting marijuana prescriptions.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled against the government in a divided opinion that found federal prosecution of medical marijuana users is unconstitutional if the marijuana is not sold, transported across state lines or used for non-medicinal purposes.

 

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