Angel Raich said she's "a little in shock'' today after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against her in a closely watched medical marijuana case.
But Raich, a 39-year-old Oakland woman who uses marijuana to deal with pre-cervical cancer, an inoperable brain tumor and other medical problems, said, "Just because we lost this little battle doesn't mean the war is over.''
Speaking at a crowded news conference at the state building in Oakland, Raich, dressed in black pants and a purple blazer, called on Congress to approve a proposed budget amendment that would bar the U.S. Justice Department from spending money to interfere with state medical marijuana laws, such as the California law that allows marijuana to be used for medicinal purposes.
She said that despite her poor health, Raich will go to Washington, D.C., on June 14 to ask Congress to pass the amendment.
Her voice breaking, Raich said her message to Congress is simple: "Pass the Hinchey Amendment and save the government's money for fighting terrorism and for homeland security.''
Raich said she told her two children recently that she considered leaving the country to go someplace where it would be easier to get medical marijuana, but after talking with them she decided, "I want to stay in the U.S. and continue to fight'' for the right to use marijuana for medicinal purposes.
Robert Raich, Angel's husband and attorney, called today's 6-3 Supreme Court ruling "a split decision on a very narrow legal issue,'' that being an interpretation of whether the interstate commerce clause allows Congress to regulate marijuana in individual states such as California.
Raich said the ruling doesn't affect other legal issues in his wife's case in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. He said he might decide to go back to that court to seek rulings on those issues.
Raich said, "This case does not in any way whatsoever affect the laws that protect patients,'' such as the California law that allows his wife to use medical marijuana.
Joining the Raiches at the news conference was Bruce Mirken, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project. The group calls itself the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States, and Mirken said today's ruling "is not a setback'' because it doesn't overturn any state medical marijuana laws and doesn't take away any of the protections those laws provide.
Mirken said, "It's important to remember that federal authorities make only 1 percent of all U.S. marijuana arrests, while state and local police make 99 percent, so patients like Angel Raich still have 99 percent protection from arrest.''
He said, "While that's not perfect, that 99 percent protection is the reason Angel is alive today.''
Mirken said the Supreme Court "effectively kicked the ball to Congress'' to pass a law authorizing medical marijuana and he joined Angel Raich in supporting the Hinchey Amendment.
He said the Bay Area's congressional representatives have been "supportive'' in the medical marijuana battle but he criticized U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein for being "missing in action.''
Mirken said, "It's time for leadership in the Senate.''
State Attorney General Bill Lockyer said in a statement today he's "disappointed'' by the Supreme Court ruling, but he added, "Legitimate medical marijuana patients in California must know that state and federal laws are no different today than they were yesterday.''
Lockyer said Congress and President Bush "have the power to reform and modernize federal law in order to bring relief to medical patients and still punish those who illegally traffic in substances.''