Taylor Rain Prays: SAN FRANCISCO — Each time the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on medical marijuana, the justices have come down against allowing the sick and dying to use the drug to ease their symptoms and possibly prolong life.

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However, the door has never been fully closed, and now a federal appeals court is set to hear arguments in the latest round of legal wrangling over the issue.

The case to be argued today before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco narrows the matter to the so-called right to life theory: that marijuana should be allowed if it is the only viable option to keep a patient alive or free of excruciating pain.

It would apply only to the sickest patients and their suppliers, regardless of whether they live in one of the 11 mostly Western states that allow medical marijuana.

The case was brought by Angel Raich, a 40-year-old mother of two from Oakland who suffers from scoliosis, a brain tumor and chronic nausea. She uses marijuana every couple of hours to ease her pain and bolster her appetite.

‘Nothing else works’

”She’d probably be dead without marijuana,” said her doctor, Frank Lucido, who has recommended marijuana for about 3,000 patients. ”Nothing else works.”

The Bush administration says the lawsuit is without merit.

Even if successful, the case would be unlikely to stop federal raids on pot clubs or protect most users and suppliers.

Regardless of outcome, Raich said she will continue using marijuana and that she expects the case to go to the Supreme Court.

”The federal government can say who can live and who can die if I lose in the Supreme Court,” she said.


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