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Other cases

In other individual rights cases heard this Term, the Court ruled that if a school allows secular groups to use its facilities during non-class hours, then it must grant equal access to religious groups. The case broke no new ground since the Court had on earlier occasions issued similar equal access rulings. Good News Club v. Milford Central School (2001).

In a victory for proponents of legal services, the Court held that the First Amendment had been violated by a congressional ban, imposed through an annual federal appropriations acts, on Legal Services Corporation's funding of any subsidiary organization that represented clients who challenged existing welfare law. The ruling came on a narrow 5-4 vote, and seemed to run contrary to an earlier ruling by the Rehnquist Court that prohibited doctors in health clinics receiving federal aid from even mentioning that abortion was an option for pregnant women. Legal Services Corporation v. Velasquez (2001).

In another case, the Court held that a state hospital's performance of urine tests to obtain evidence of maternity patients' cocaine use constituted an unreasonable search in violation of Fourth Amendment, if patients did not consent to procedure. Staff members at a public hospital operated in Charleston, South Carolina, by the Medical University of South Carolina, became concerned about an apparent increase in the use of cocaine by patients who were receiving prenatal treatment. The staff offered to cooperate with the city in prosecuting mothers whose children tested positive for drugs at birth, and they began, without patient consent, testing women who used their prenatal clinic or delivery rooms for drugs. They then turned over the names of women had had tested positive to local law enforcement officers, who proceeded to use these test results as evidence in bringing prosecutions for drug use. By a 6-3 vote, the Court held these procedures violated the Fourth Amendment, and that drug tests could not be imposed upon patients without their consent. Ferguson v. Charleston (2001).

Finally, in a widely watched case, the Supreme Court dealt what may be a lethal blow to the medical marijuana movement. Medical researches had discovered that marijuana proved to be an effective pain killer for certain patients suffering from severe, debilitating and even terminal disease, and that it provided far more effective relief than could be obtained through normal prescription drugs. As a result, in 1996 California carved out an exception to its drug laws, permitting a patient or the patient's primary caregiver to possess or cultivate marijuana for the patient's medical purposes upon the recommendation or approval of a physician. A number of non-profit organizations quickly organized to make the cannabis available, and the United States brought suit against one of them on the grounds that it violated the federal Controlled Substances Act's prohibitions against distributing, manufacturing, and possessing with the intent to distribute or manufacture a controlled substance.

The Supreme Court upheld the government, and in an opinion concurred in by eight justices (Breyer did not participate), Justice Thomas held, with respect to marijuana, that there was no medical-necessity exception to the Act's prohibitions, and if one were to be created, it would be the responsibility of Congress, and not the courts, to do so. United States v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative (2001).



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