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Medical marijuana users sue U.S. over arrests

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OAKLAND, California (CNN) -- Four plaintiffs in California filed suit in federal court Wednesday requesting an injunction to stop the federal government from arresting people for medically using marijuana, as permitted under state law.

Two of the plaintiffs, Angel McClary Raich and Diane Monson, are patients with serious medical conditions who have obtained recommendations from their doctors to use marijuana to relieve some of their symptoms. The two unnamed co-plaintiffs are marijuana growers who supply McClary Raich with the two ounces of pot she says she needs each week to alleviate her suffering.

Named as defendants in the lawsuit are the U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and Asa Hutchinson, administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The lawsuit is the second time attorney Robert Raich has tried to bring the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court. A year ago, the Supreme Court ruled against his client, the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Club, in its claim that medical necessity overrides federal law. This time, Raich has broadened his argument while narrowing the number of plaintiffs.

The lawsuit contends the four plaintiffs grow their own marijuana solely for their own medical use within the borders of California, thus removing any federal authority under interstate commerce laws. The suit also claims constitutional protection under clauses guaranteeing state sovereignty and due process.

If granted, the injunction would prevent the arrest and seizure of property -- including marijuana -- of only the four defendants, but Raich predicts it will serve as a precedent for the entire country.

"This case obviously involves only the four plaintiffs who brought the case. However, it would then lay a template for any other similarly situated seriously ill patient, in California or any other state with a medical cannabis law," he said.

California's Proposition 215, approved by voters in 1996, exempts patients who possess or cultivate marijuana for medical treatment from criminal laws against marijuana use when the drug is recommended by a doctor. The physicians who prescribe marijuana are also exempt from prosecution.

Raich was married this summer to McClary Raich, who was a member of the now-dormant Oakland Cannabis Buyers Club.

In a news conference following the court filing, McClary Raich said she suffers from an inoperable brain tumor and needs marijuana to stimulate her appetite and prevent the continual weight loss that could eventually prove fatal.

"Medical cannabis is not about cannabis, it's not about pot -- it's about real lives," she said. "It's about ending suffering, it's about sick, disabled, and dying Californians that suffer greatly like myself."

McClary Raich said she feels angry and will fight with "every single ounce of energy that I have left" to make sure the government does not take the drug away from her.

"When I was partially paralyzed and in that wheelchair, that was hell," she said. "And there is no way that I'm going to allow this federal government to send me back to hell. There's no way."

Monson, who suffers from chronic back pain and muscle spasms, had been growing her own marijuana at her home in rural northern California. She described a recent visit by sheriff's deputies and DEA agents, during which the deputies tried unsuccessfully to convince the federal agents not to cut down her six plants.

"I am not a criminal," Monson said. "I do not deserve to have my home raided -- to have my peace of mind taken away from me, my privacy taken from me."

Attorney David Michael said he believes the government does not have the right to make laws about health decisions made by patients and their doctors, especially if, in regards to marijuana, the drug is used within the boundaries of their own state with no "commerce activity."

"The federal government does not have the right to interfere," Michael said. "That's what's important about this case."

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