There is no medical necessity defense against prosecution for the federal crimes of cultivating or distributing marijuana, even in places where state law recognizes such a defense. So said the Supreme Court in United States v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative, 532 U.S. 483, 486 (2001). Although there may be some question as to their vitality, the Court left undecided issues involving a necessity defense for possession and possible commerce clause, enactment clause, and due process clause challenges. In Gonzales v. Raich, 125 S.Ct. 2195 (2005), the Court held that Congress's' power under the commerce clause enabled it to enact a regulatory scheme that extended to the purely local cultivation and possession of marijuana for medical purposes. There are proposals in this Congress to reverse the impact of the Court's decisions.
This is an abbreviated form of CRS Report RL31100, Marijuana for Medical Purposes: The
Supreme Court's Decision in United States v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative and Related
Legal Issues, stripped of its footnotes and citations to authority. Penalties authorized for violations
of the Controlled Substances Act are discussed in CRS Report 97-141(pdf), Drug Smuggling, Drug
Dealing and Drug Abuse: Background and Overview of the Sanctions Under the Federal Controlled
Substances Act and Related Statutes.