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High Court Decision

Physicians and scientists juggle conflicting laws and priorities.

Patient advocacy groups finally had some cause for celebration when the Supreme Court let stand a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision prohibiting the federal government from punishing doctors who advised patients that marijuana might relieve some of their symptoms. But the Ninth Circuit, which covers nine western states, did not resolve other long-standing questions that the use of marijuana has raised.

It is still unclear, for example, whether a doctor is breaking the law by writing a prescription for the drug. The remaining patchwork of conflicting state and federal laws, and some forbidding language from the U.S. Justice Department, donít help; doctors are left alone to balance the ever more conflicting demands of regulators, lawyers, and patients.

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