In a brush-back pitch to DOJ opioid initiatives, the U.S. Supreme Court this past June issued an important decision clarifying the mental state the government must establish to convict a licensed medical professional of illegal drug distribution under the federal Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”). No longer can a doctor be convicted of such a crime based on objectively unreasonable prescribing practices alone. The government now must show that the medical professional subjectively, knowingly, and intentionally prescribed a controlled substance with no legitimate medical purpose. While unlikely to materially impact the number of DOJ opioid prosecutions, the case will no doubt inform charging decisions in marginal cases and will support important defense arguments at trial.
Coming off the decisions in the landmark Dobbs and Bruen cases, the rest of the term might seem anticlimactic. Nevertheless, as the shelf is being cleared of the remaining cases, there are still rulings of significance to come. As the week opened, one of them—a religious freedom case—likely didn't surprise anyone who listened to the oral argument or, indeed, who has been paying attention to the conservative Justices having changed the valences in religious liberty cases. The other two cases decided on the opening day of the week were both criminal cases of limited interest, but important nevertheless.
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