It's Counties Against State Again in Pot Suit

It's Counties Against State Again in Pot Suit
Posted by CN Staff on June 08, 2008 at 10:50:15 PT
By Jeff McDonald, Union-Tribune Staff Writer
Source: Union Tribune
California -- Nineteen months after a judge rejected San Diego County's lawsuit against the state of California seeking to overturn medical marijuana laws, government lawyers are returning to court to argue their appeals. In a case being watched closely by counties around the state, oral arguments are scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday in a 4th District Court of Appeal courtroom in downtown San Diego.
The panel of judges is not expected to issue an immediate ruling. Instead, a decision likely will be handed down sometime this summer. Lawyers for San Diego and San Bernardino counties will argue that the state cannot force counties to issue identification cards to qualified medical marijuana patients because the drug is illegal under federal law. San Bernardino and Merced counties joined the San Diego County lawsuit in 2006, but Merced County supervisors subsequently voted to abandon the suit and issue the identification. The state will join lawyers for sick and dying patients in arguing that San Diego Superior Court Judge William R. Nevitt Jr. ruled correctly in 2006, when he said the county must follow state law and issue the cards. "The counties continue to recycle their ill-fated arguments," said Adam Wolf, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, which is a co-defendant in the suit. "The law is clear: The federal government cannot force the state of California to arrest and prosecute medical marijuana patients," Wolf said. In 1996, 56 percent of California voters approved Proposition 215, which allows chronicly ill patients to grow and smoke marijuana to relieve symptoms related to their sickness. Seven years later, amid confusion and lackluster support for medical marijuana among many law enforcement and local elected officials, then-Gov. Gray Davis signed a bill requiring counties to issue identification cards to qualified patients. The state laws squarely conflict with federal drug laws, which classify marijuana among the most dangerous drugs in the world. San Diego County refused to follow the state law calling for ID cards, and sued the state to overturn its medical marijuana provisions. The county lost its Superior Court case and quickly appealed. "The medical marijuana laws conflict with the federal Controlled Substances Act because they authorize individuals to use marijuana, which is prohibited by federal law," said Thomas Bunton, the county attorney leading the fight against Proposition 215. "The Superior Court decision is really irrelevant." Since 2004, at least 35 of California's 58 counties have agreed to issue ID cards to medical marijuana patients. The rest have resisted, apparently awaiting the outcome of this case. San Diego County's refusal to issue the identification cards has left an untold number of patients most say thousands with no protections against individual police and sheriff's deputies, who have great discretion in pursuing drug-possession cases. "With an ID card, I would at least have something that says I'm a legitimate patient," said Craig McClain, 51, a spinal cord patient from Vista who smokes marijuana to relieve swelling and back pain. "With the police, you don't know if a guy's going to be understanding or not," said McClain, who was disabled in a 1990 construction accident. "There are a lot of good officers out there, but there are also those officers who only care about the adrenaline rush of arresting people." Staff attorney Joseph Elford of Americans for Safe Access, another advocacy group that represents medical marijuana patients, said he expects San Diego and San Bernardino counties to take their case to the California Supreme Court if they lose this appeal. "It's extremely political," said Elford, who is meeting with a group of patients Tuesday night to update them on the case. "The boards of supervisors from San Diego and San Bernardino (counties) are opposed to what the rest of the state, and people in their own counties, voted in favor of." Complete Title: It's Counties Against State Again in Appeal of Pot SuitSource: San Diego Union Tribune (CA) Author: Jeff McDonald, Union-Tribune Staff Writer Published: June 8, 2008Copyright: 2008 Union-Tribune Publishing Co. Contact: letters Website: CannabisNews Medical Marijuana Archives
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #2 posted by afterburner on June 11, 2008 at 22:09:14 PT
Be Careful with that Supremacy Clause, Counties
"According to the U.S. Constitutionís Supremacy Clause, international treaties trump federal laws" UN Single Convention, which the US championed and signed, allows for medical use of cannabis. The CSA (Controlled Substances Act) mistakenly classifies cannabis as Schedule 1, lacking any medical use; and yet Federal patients of the Investigational New Drug program continue to get federally supplied medical cannabis. How is this possible? The UN Single Convention (treaty) trumps the CSA (federal law). "The FDA closed its medical marijuana IND program (the Compassionate Investigational New Drug program) in 1991, facing an influx of AIDS patients seeking access to the drug. Seven patients continue to receive cannabis from the government under the program"
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by FoM on June 10, 2008 at 18:29:25 PT
Blog: Arguments Heard in Medical Marijuana Case
June 10, 2008A three-judge panel of appellate judges heard more than an hour of oral arguments Tuesday from lawyers fighting over California's medical marijuana laws.Attorneys for San Diego and San Bernardino counties told the Fourth District Court of Appeal judges that counties should not be forced to issue identification cards to qualified medical marijuana patients.Lawyers for the state Department of Justice and two advocacy groups told the judges that state medical marijuana laws do not prevent federal officials from enforcing federal drug laws.The counties lost their case at the Superior Court level in late 2006. A ruling from the appeals court is expected this summer.-- Jeff McDonald
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment