If a doctor recommends medical marijuana to a patient who lives in a state without compassionate-care laws established, can that patient successfully sue the state for access on the grounds that a doctor is an expert in health whereas legislatures are not?

Another way to think about this is how the Federal Marijuana program works and how it protects registered patients from State intervention. (Since 1977, well before prop 215 in California).

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    I don't think this would be valid grounds for a lawsuit. It basically reduces to "the dumb legislature made a dumb law that I shouldn't have to follow". The legislature has the authority to make valid laws on all sorts of things that they are not necessarily experts on. In this case, the legislature apparently decided that this is not a matter that should be left up to individual doctors and patients, and they have the authority to make that decision. Jan 24, 2016 at 19:24
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    If this attack was able to work then you could be sure that most of the laws in the United States would have already been torn down.
    – NotMe
    Jan 25, 2016 at 3:14
  • A comment above deleted, as it was an answer to the first deleted comment, and took this question out of context, as per the response of @cpast answer, second para., below.
    – irth
    Jan 26, 2016 at 15:43
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    @irth There is no protected right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. There is a right to not be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.
    – cpast
    Jan 27, 2016 at 20:39
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    To be slightly pedantic, anyone with a word processor and the filing fee can sue anyone over anything in any court. When a question is asked in the form of this question, I assume that you don't literally mean this and instead mean "does someone have a potentially valid basis for prevailing in a lawsuit if one is filed," I've edited the question to reflect this understanding.
    – ohwilleke
    Jul 28, 2021 at 16:47

1 Answer 1


Generally, no. Legislatures pass laws. The fact that someone else knows more about the thing they're passing laws about is utterly irrelevant -- the power to make laws is given to the legislature, not to experts. If the legislature thinks experts should make the rules on something, they can delegate (this is why the FDA approves medicine rather than Congress), but the legislature of a state generally has the power to pass any law that is not unconstitutional.

Your analogy to paper money is a poor one: that's a federalism thing, not an expertise thing. Congress has established a system of paper money, and states can't interfere with that. It's not that the Fed thinks paper money is good, it's that Congress said paper money shall be a thing. That could stop a state from banning an FDA-approved drug; however, since marijuana is illegal under federal law, it would be odd to conclude that banning it at the state level as well is preempted.

Legislators aren't inherently experts on anything (except being elected). That doesn't matter. They have the authority to pass laws, even if those laws directly go against the views of people who are recognized experts in the area.

You appear to think there must be a judicial remedy against bad policy. You would be wrong. The role of the courts is not to decide what policies are good or bad; they are concerned only with what is legal. Deciding what policies are good or bad is a matter for the democratically elected representatives of the people, or for the people themselves in states with ballot questions. It is not the job of the courts.

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    @irth There is a remedy. It's called voting. What policies are good or bad is not a matter for the courts.
    – cpast
    Jan 27, 2016 at 17:55
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    Also, no part of the FDA's job includes overriding acts of Congress, and Congress need not wait for the FDA to do anything. Congress gets to make laws. They may be stupid, but the courts don't care. Executive agencies may be delegated power to regulate in accordance with the law, but Congress need not legislate in accordance with regulation.
    – cpast
    Jan 27, 2016 at 18:03
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    @irth You may find it ridiculous. I'm at a loss why you think the legal system cares.
    – cpast
    Jan 27, 2016 at 18:04
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    I disagree entirely with that viewpoint. It's my understanding that the judicial system's responsibility in checks and balances is to check congress's laws are constitutionally valid and that no rights are being infringed on by legislation. Please review this link so we're on the same page. cqpress.com/incontext/constitution/docs/legislation.html
    – irth
    Jan 27, 2016 at 18:09
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    @irth It checks if things are constitutionally valid. But "this is dumb and experts disagree" isn't a constitutional issue.
    – cpast
    Jan 27, 2016 at 18:22

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