The Des Moines Register
Wednesday, February 19, 1997, page 2M.
Class-Action Lawsuit Next for D.M. Man's Lawyer
Medicinal-marijuana case rejected
By Jim Pollok
Register Staff Writer
The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a Des Moines man's
effort to get the federal government to recognize what he says are marijuana's medicinal
It wasn't good news for Carl Olsen, but it wasn't surprising. "I'm not real
disappointed -- not any more than when I filed the lawsuit to begin with," he
said. "I'm disappointed with the whole government and the way they're treating
The court, without comment, turned away arguments that the federal Drug Enforcement
Administration improperly has refused to remove some of the severe restrictions against
the illegal drug.
That's the end of this case, but not the end of the argument, said Olsen, 45.
"I've had something pending in court for the last 15 years, so I may look around for
something," he said.
His lawyer plans to file a class-action lawsuit later this month.
"It will be filed on behalf of approximately 100 plaintiffs from all over the United
States who share the common issue of a need for therapeutic cannabis," said
Philadelphia attorney Lawrence Elliott Hirsch.
For Eight Users Only
"It's based on the principle that eight people receive therapeutic cannabis but all
other candidates no longer can obtain it from the government because of arbitrary
Two of the eight legal users live in Iowa.
Several experts have said there is no proven medical use for smoked marijuana.
However, some research has suggested that the drug is useful in relieving internal eye
pressure in glaucoma; for controlling nausea in cancer patients on chemotherapy; and for
combating wasting, a severe weight loss associated with AIDS and the HIV virus.
Doctors who treat AIDS and cancer sued the Clinton administration last month for
threatening to punish doctors who recommend marijuana for their patients.
New laws in California and Arizona allowing medical uses of the drug sparked a harsh
response from the federal government.
"I thought the case had a better chance to be heard because of the controversy,
" Hirsch said. "I thought the issues were appropriately raised and it
would have been helpful for the court to decide. I was disappointed they didn't hear
Olsen petitioned the Supreme Court after the U.S. Court of Appeals dismissed his case
without issuing a written opinion.
His petition to the Supreme Court questioned whether the Drug Enforcement Agency rejected
his petition arbitrarily; violated his First Amendment rights; violated his Fifth
Amendment rights; violated his right to privacy; and violated his right to equal
protection of the laws.
Olsen did not plan to carry his battle to the nation's highest court, but then Hirsch
entered the picture.
Hirsch, 58, has practiced law for 33 years. On Feb. 26, he launches a new law firm,
Hirsch & Caplan, dedicated to the issue of medical marijuana and other public interest
He explained the turn in his career by saying: "That's the way God planned it."
Olsen, who works for the Iowa Department of Transportation in Des Moines, was arrested for
possession of marijuana several times in the 1980s and spent two years in prison on drug
charges in the mid-1980s.
includes information from The Associated Press.