WASHINGTON (AP) – The Supreme Court said Monday it will consider whether sick people who smoke pot on a doctor's orders are subject to a federal ban on marijuana.
The court agreed to hear the Bush administration's appeal of a case it lost last year involving two California women who say marijuana is the only drug that helps alleviate their chronic pain and other medical problems.
The high court will hear the case sometime next winter.
It was among eight new cases the court added to its calendar for the coming term.
The current term is expected to end this week.
The marijuana case came to the Supreme Court after the San Francisco-based 9th U.S.
Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in December that a federal law outlawing marijuana does not apply to California patients whose doctors have prescribed the drug.
In its 2-1 decision, the appeals court said prosecuting medical marijuana users under the federal Controlled Substances Act is unconstitutional if the marijuana is not sold, transported across state lines or used for non-medicinal purposes.
Judge Harry Pregerson wrote for the appeals court majority that smoking pot on the advice of a doctor is "different in kind from drug trafficking."
California's 1996 medical marijuana law allows people to grow, smoke or obtain marijuana for medical needs with a doctor's recommendation.
Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington state have laws similar to California.
Thirty-five states have passed legislation recognizing marijuana's medicinal value.