The US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday that medical marijuana is not protected under the federal Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).
The issue first arose when the Southern California cities of Lake Forest and Costa Mesa limited the presence of collectives through ordinances, raids, and bans.
Patients and marijuana activists joined together, believing that their right to use marijuana was protected by the ADA. Under Title II of the ADA, public entities are prohibited from denying the benefit of public services to “qualified individuals with a disability.”
However, yesterday the Ninth Circuit justices sided with the cities, saying that the ADA does not apply to medical marijuana patients. One of the reasons for that is that under the ADA, “the term ‘individual with a disability’ does not include an individual who is currently engaging in the illegal use of drugs, when the covered entity acts on the basis of such use.” While marijuana is legal in California for medical purposes, it is still illegal under federal law.
In the opinion released by the justices, it seemed as though the justices were on the side of the patients. Part of the written statement read, “We recognize that the plaintiffs are gravely ill, and that their request for ADA relief implicates not only their right to live comfortably, but also their basic human dignity. We also acknowledge that California has embraced marijuana as an effective treatment for individuals like the plaintiffs who face debilitating pain.”
Despite the sympathy that they showed to the patients, the court still ruled that they were not protected under the ADA because marijuana is illegal on a federal level. The Ninth Circuit explained that, “…the federal government’s views on the wisdom of restricting medical marijuana use may be evolving… But for now Congress has determined that, for purposes of federal law, marijuana is unacceptable for medical use.”