Angel Raich describes herself as a 'dead man walking'. The 41-year mother of two has been informed of possible prosecution by the U.S federal government for breaching federal drug laws, by the possession and usage of drugs.
Suffering from scoliosis, brain tumor and other ailments, Raich has been taking 'pot' or marijuana, on her doctor's prescription, every two hours to battle pain and anorexia; side effects of her condition. Now a federal court ruling says this is not possible.
Raich had sued the federal court as a pre-cautionary measure to avoid arrest for the possession of drugs. This latest legal battle follows the conflict between the federal government, which declares marijuana an illegal controlled substance with no medical value, and the 11 states allowing medical marijuana for patients with a doctor's recommendation.
Two years back, the Supreme Court ruled against Raich, saying medical marijuana users and their suppliers could be prosecuted for breaching federal drug laws even if they lived in a state such as California where medical pot is legal.
Because of that ruling, the issue before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was narrowed to the so-called 'right to life' theory: that the gravely ill have a right to marijuana to keep them alive when legal drugs fail.
Yet the appeals panel said that the United States has not yet reached the point where "the right to use medical marijuana is 'fundamental' and 'implicit in the concept of ordered liberty."
As a sobbing Raich was comforted, leaders in the medical marijuana movement said they would continue fighting.
"This is literally a matter of life and death for Angel and thousands of other patients, and we will keep fighting on both the legal and political fronts until every patient is safe", said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project.
The court has however left open the possibility that Raich, if she was arrested and prosecuted, might be able to argue that she possessed marijuana as a last resort to stay alive, in what is known as a "medical necessity defense."