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The U.S. Supreme Court on June 6 rendered the following decisions: The justices ruled, 6-3, that people who smoke marijuana because their doctors recommend it to ease pain can be prosecuted for violating federal drug laws. Gonzales v. Raich, No. 03-1454. Writing on behalf of the court, Justice John Paul Stevens said that the ruling was not passing judgment on the potential medical benefits of marijuana. However, the Constitution allows federal regulation of homegrown marijuana as interstate commerce. The ruling leaves California’s medical marijuana law�allowing people to grow, smoke or obtain marijuana for medical needs with a doctor’s recommendation�in place, but says that the federal government can, if it chooses to, enforce the federal Controlled Substances Act. Stevens based the ruling on the 1942 decision Wickard v. Filburn, which said that New Deal-era federal agricultural regulations could restrict a farmer’s homegrown wheat even if it never enters interstate commerce. Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer concurred with Stevens’ opinion. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s dissent was joined by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justice Clarence Thomas. The justices ruled, 5-4, that foreign cruise lines sailing in U.S. waters must provide better access for passengers in wheelchairs. Spector v. Norwegian Cruise Line, No. 03-1388. Writing on behalf of the majority, Kennedy said that Congress intended the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) to apply to cruise lines. “The statute is applicable to foreign ships in the United States waters to the same extent that it is applicable to American ships in those waters,” he said. However, the ruling leaves unclear the extent to which the cruise industry will need to upgrade pools, restaurants and emergency equipment for wheelchair accessibility. According to Kennedy, cruise lines need not comply with Title III of the ADA if this creates too much international discord or disruption of a ship’s internal affairs, under a provision of the statute that calls only for “readily achievable” modifications. “It is likely that under a proper interpretation of ‘readily achievable’ Title III would impose no requirements that interfere with the internal affairs of foreign-flag cruise ships,” Kennedy wrote, sending the case back to a lower court to determine what ultimately is required of cruise lines. Three disabled passengers, who boarded Norwegian Cruise Line in Houston in 1998 and 1999, claimed that they paid premiums for handicapped-accessible cabins, but the cruise line failed to configure restaurants, elevators and other facilities, in violation of the ADA. Norwegian countered that only an explicit statement of Congress can justify imposing U.S. law on a ship that sails under a foreign flag, even if it is docked at a U.S. port. The federal law is silent as to whether foreign cruise lines are covered by the ADA. Kennedy’s opinion was joined by Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer. Scalia’s dissent was joined by Rehnquist, O’Connor and Thomas. The justices ruled unanimously that Alaska cannot claim ownership of the submerged lands in Glacier Bay National Park and other pockets within southeast Alaska’s Alexander Archipelago, one of the state’s most visited national parks and a popular cruise ship destination. Alaska v. U.S., No. 128, Orig. The justices said that the state can’t claim, under the Alaska Statehood Act, land set aside by the federal government for the protection of wildlife, which includes Glacier Bay’s submerged lands. Writing on behalf of the court, Kennedy said that the statehood act made clear that the land-transfer directive “did not apply to lands withdrawn or otherwise set apart as refuges or reservations for [wildlife] protection.” -ALM, AP

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